Documents considered by the Committee on 1 March 2017 Contents

6Circular Economy

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Document (b) not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; Documents (a) and (c) cleared from scrutiny

Document details

(a) Commission Report on the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan; (b) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2011/65/EU on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment; (c) Commission Communication — the role of waste–to–energy in the circular economy

Legal base

(a) —; (b) Art 114, TFEU; (c) —

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Numbers

(a) (38500), 5799/17 + ADD 1, COM(17) 33 ; (b) (38489), 5708/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 38; (c) (38501), 5801/17, COM(17) 34

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

6.1A circular economy is one where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste is minimised. This requires effort throughout the life of a product, from design to manufacture to consumption to re-use, recycling or disposal.

6.2The Commission was clear in its December 2015 Action Plan that the transition towards a more circular economy is an essential contribution to the EU’s future sustainability and competitiveness.

6.3The Report (document (a)) provides an update on the actions delivered as part of the Commission’s implementation of the Action Plan and introduces the proposed key deliverables for 2017.

6.4The new initiatives published alongside the Action Plan and which are also covered in this Chapter are:

6.5Other recent and future initiatives include:

6.6The Communication on waste-to-energy (document (c)) aims to ensure that recovery of energy from waste in the EU supports the objectives of the Circular Economy Action Plan and is guided by the EU waste hierarchy.

6.7The Proposal to amend the Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (document (b)) addresses flaws in the current Directive which, if not addressed, will lead to unintended consequences. In particular, it will enable secondary market operations and repair of certain equipment that was placed on the market before 22 July 2019, which would otherwise have been prohibited. The proposals will also clarify the scope of the original Directive to exclude both pipe organs and the different treatment of cord-connected non-road mobile machinery in comparison to otherwise identical machinery powered by a battery or an engine.

6.8The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Environment and Rural Life Opportunities, (Dr Thérèse Coffey), is largely content with the Communications. While the Government is broadly supportive of the legislative proposal on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, the Minister notes that at least one of the provisions would benefit from greater clarity and it is possible that the European Parliament will push to include other issues (such as additional substances).

6.9On Brexit, the Government acknowledges that legislative actions to implement the amended Directive in the UK will depend upon the date of adoption and the then current status of the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU.

6.10The Commission’s original Action Plan and associated proposals were debated in European Committee on 7 March 2016. We report these latest documents to the House in order to update the House on progress.

6.11The documentation is in line with the Government’s approach to circular economy principles. We are content to release the Report (document (a)) and the Communication (document (c)) from scrutiny. We retain the legislative proposal (document (b)) under scrutiny. We look forward to an update on the progress of negotiations on the proposal and we ask that, when she next writes, the Minister be specific about the Government’s concerns and the changes that the Government is accordingly seeking to negotiate.

Full details of the documents

(a) Commission Report on the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan: (38500), 5799/17 + ADD 1, COM(17) 33; (b) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2011/65/EU on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment: (38489), 5708/17 + ADDs 1–2, COM(17) 38; (c) Commission Communication — the role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy: (38501), 5801/17, COM(17) 34.

Report on the Circular Economy Action Plan (Document (a))

6.12The Report and accompanying annex provide an update on the actions delivered as part of the Commission’s implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan since its adoption in December 2015, and introduces the proposed key deliverables for 2017.

6.13Key actions since the adoption of the Action Plan include:

6.14In addition to the other documents covered in this Chapter, further work includes:

Hazardous substances Directive (Document (b))

6.15The existing Directive28 restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) is a recast of earlier legislation. It sets out rules on the restriction of the use of six hazardous substances (ten from July 2019) in the manufacture of certain categories of EEE placed on the EU market. The recast Directive introduced a new definition of EEE, meaning that the Directive will be applicable to all EEE except equipment that is explicitly excluded. It also introduced a broader interpretation of EEE, based on a revised definition of the dependency of electricity. These changes in the scope of the Directive apply from 22 July 2019.

6.16Based on a Commission assessment, this new proposal amends the current Directive to address a number of issues that would, without any such amendment, arise after 22 July 2019, including:

Waste–to–energy Communication (Document (c))

6.17The Communication provides guidance on energy recovery from waste. Energy recovery, such as anaerobic digestion, is one of the management options for waste and includes incineration—where the energy released is used to generate electricity and, in some cases, heat. It is generally placed below re-use and recycling in the waste hierarchy, but above waste disposal (incineration without energy recovery and landfill).

6.18Observations made in the Communication include:

Minister’s Explanatory Memoranda of 15 and 16 February 2017

Report on the Circular Economy Action Plan

6.19The Minister welcomes the broad direction of the Action Plan and the opportunities it provides. She sets out the UK’s approach in the following terms:

“There are some elements of the Action Plan that we will need to consider in more detail as the Commission takes this work forward—in particular those that may lead to mandatory measures in the future. […] We will want to make sure that proposals are developed with Member States, allow flexibility, ensure that costs are justified by expected impacts, avoid unnecessary burdens on business, and create an environment that welcomes innovation, improves resource productivity and helps increase business competitiveness.”

Hazardous Substances Directive

6.20The UK broadly supports the proposal, says the Minister, given the “greater clarity it provides around the resale and repair of old equipment and its deregulatory nature, removing more equipment from its scope and (consequentially) resulting in lower costs on businesses”.

6.21However, says the Minister, some of the drafting changes will still require careful scrutiny by officials in negotiations:

“One of the provisions would benefit from greater clarity and we do not yet know if the European Parliament might push to include other issues (such as additional substances) through the co-decision process. There might also be a need to negotiate an extension to the timetable by which Member States are required to transpose the amending Directive into national legislation no later than 10 months from the entry into force at EU level date.”

6.22On Brexit, the Government acknowledges that legislative actions to implement these provisions in the United Kingdom will depend upon the date of adoption and the then current status of the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU. There is no timetable for adoption at the moment. Council negotiations on the proposal are expected to extend into the second half of 2017.

Waste–to–energy Communication

6.23The Minister welcomes the Communication and the clarification of the Commission’s position on energy recovery. The position is broadly similar to the Government’s policy on energy recovery. The Minister agrees that investment in new energy recovery infrastructure should strike a balance between ensuring sufficient capacity to manage waste that genuinely cannot be re-used or recycled and avoiding excess capacity that locks waste into this tier of the waste hierarchy when it could be treated higher up the hierarchy.

6.24As the Communication largely reflects the UK’s position on energy recovery, it is expected to have little impact on the UK waste-to-energy sector:

“Operators are well aware of the need to consider the waste hierarchy and Defra has for a number of years pushed the message that energy recovery facilities need to maximise their efficiency and reduce their environmental impacts by looking at outputs beyond electricity production.”

6.25On a point of detail, the Minister notes that the UK exports waste as a refuse-derived fuel to Northern Europe where it is burnt in waste to energy plants to produce electricity and heat. The Minister acknowledges that operators export waste in this way because there is currently limited domestic waste-to-energy capacity and it is cheaper than sending it to landfill, but considers the fact it is burnt to produce heat as well as electricity to be favourable in terms of environmental outcome.

Previous Committee Reports

None, but the Committee’s Report on the Circular Economy Action Plan is relevant: Sixteenth Report HC 342-xv (2015–16), chapter 2 (6 January 2016).


28 Directive 2011/65/EU.




3 March 2017