Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Eighteen EU countries are at risk of missing EU waste recycling targets, a recent briefing from the European Environment Agency (EEA) revealed. Only 9 member states — Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Slovenia — are progressing and, on its way, to meet the targets.
As part of Europe’s efforts to become a circular economy, the bloc has set targets for the 27 EU countries to increase recycling and reduce landfilling. Specifically, by 2025, 55% of municipal waste and 65% of packaging waste must be prepared for re-use or recycled, according to the targets.
The country’s performance, however, varies significantly among even the better performing countries. For example, 10 EU countries are at risk of missing both the municipal waste (55%) and the total packaging waste (65%) recycling targets in 2025 while 8 EU countries are at risk of missing the municipal waste (55%) recycling target but on track to meet the total packaging waste target in 2025.
The EEA is urging many EU countries “to significantly step up their efforts and better monitor the effectiveness of policy measures” to take into account the risk areas.
“In general, it was found that member states at risk of not meeting their recycling target had neither convenient, separate collection in place for most of the population nor adequate, available treatment capacity,” EEA stated.
Most packaging not recycled
Europeans produce an average of 35kg of plastic packaging waste each per year, and the trend is rising, as the OECD estimates plastic consumption to triple by 2060.
Contrary to what many assume, most packaging is not recycled, ending up in landfills or toxic incinerators. It is estimated that at most 40% of plastic packaging generated across Europe is recycled.
As part of the EU Landfill Directive, the amount of municipal waste landfilled is required to be reduced to 10% of generated municipal waste by 2035.
“We need to kill the illusion that these things are recycled,” Nusa Urbancic, campaigns director at the international foundation Changing Markets told Investigate Europe. “It’s a very different feeling when you know that the plastic you bought things in is not recycled but ends up in a landfill or being incinerated.”
Highest recycling rates
The countries with highest recycling rates are Germany, Austria, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. According to the briefing, they have all implemented well-designed landfill taxes, or landfill bans, making bio-waste collection convenient for many residents, and effectively use economic incentives to encourage citizens to sort their waste.
To properly monitor progress, the EEA and the European Commission are set to publish early warning reports three years ahead of the target years, hoping to identify each country’s prospects of meeting the targets, as well as to anticipate barriers to implementation.