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Falkenberg warns against a voluntary circular economy

The outgoing Director General of DG Environment, at the European Commission, Karl Falkenberg, told a Resource Efficiency and Waste Management conference in Birmingham (UK) last week that voluntary approaches to resource efficiency alone will not work.  He underlined that whilst a number of pioneering schemes do now work now due to their revenue raising character, the former DG indicated that some regulatory aspects would be required.  His comments follow a three month Europe wide consultation online that is helping to prepare the way towards a formal proposal.  Meanwhile in July, ENEP saw the UK environment department (DEFRA) briefing to Members of the European Parliament that preferred industry led initiatives over binding regulation. Hinting at what the Commission might include in its proposal, Mr Falkenberg suggested that landfill restrictions are likely to be included in the circular economy package, as well as binding targets for recycling and eco-design initiatives.  The Commission proposals will build on the feedback received in a recent stakeholder consultation conferences that took place in Brussels that concluded that:-

  • An enabling framework (regulatory, finance) should accompany market drivers to foster more circular economy

  • There is ‘no one size fits all’ approach;

  • Quality standards are needed for secondary raw materials to increase their use;

  • Effective use of existing eco-design and green procurement rules is necessary to improve durability and reparability;

  • It is necessary to improve lifespan and durability of products;

  • There is a need to align EU products, chemicals and waste legislations;

  • Innovation will receive a boost by combining ambitious vision, minimum standards, and market incentives;

  • Targets are needed for legal certainty and to drive investment covering the whole hierarchy and more waste streams (food, industrial, commercial);

  • Implementation/enforcement is key. Harmonised definitions/standards, improved statistics, traceability are needed.

  • Separate collection is essential as well as supporting measures (public procurement, better design, awareness);

  • Economic instruments are helping (green taxes, incentives, PAYT – pay as you throw) and clearer rules are needed for extended producer responsibility;

Watch the web stream from this conference now

Issue 45