Cleared from scrutiny (by Resolution of the House on 08/03/2016); further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Environmental Audit Committee, Communities and Local Government Committee, Welsh Affairs Committee, Scottish Affairs Committee and Northern Irish Affairs Committee
(a) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste; (b) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste; (c) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste; (d) Proposal for a Directive amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment.
(a) (c) and (d) Article 192(1) TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV; (b) Article 114 TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(a) (37377), 14975/15 + ADDs 1–3, COM(15) 595;
(b) (37378), 14976/15 + ADDs 1–3, COM(15) 596;
(c) (37376), 14974/15 + ADDs 1–2, COM(15) 594;
(d) (37375), 14973/15 + ADDs 1–2, COM(15) 593
34.1The EU has a strategic objective to develop a “circular economy” whereby the maximum value and use is extracted from all raw materials, products and waste, fostering energy savings and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As part of its strategy, the European Commission accordingly proposed in December 2015 a package of four proposals to amend six pieces of existing waste legislation.
34.2Our predecessor Committee reported on the accompanying Action Plan and on the proposals in early 2016, before debating the documents in European Committee A on 7 March 2016. Since then, discussions on the draft legislation have intensified between Member States and within the European Parliament.
34.3The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Dr Thérèse Coffey) updates us on the progress of negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament. She describes the Council’s negotiating position—adopted by the Committee of Permanent Representatives on 19 May 2017—as advocating “ambitious but achievable” measures. These include: a 60% recycling target for municipal waste by 2030; a 10% target for the amount of municipal waste going to landfill, with a five year derogation for 11 Member States who are performing poorly at present (not the UK); and a 70% target for reuse and recycling of packaging waste.
34.4The measures proposed by the European Parliament are described by the Minister as “very ambitious”. These include a 70% recycling target for municipal waste by 2030 (plus an additional 5% target for reuse of products); a 5% target for the amount of municipal waste going to landfill; and an 80% target for the reuse or recycling of packaging waste. The European Parliament has also proposed separate targets on food waste and on marine litter.
34.5The UK Government broadly supports the objectives of the package, but is concerned about the feasibility of the most stringent targets, citing specific concerns about cost, household behavioural change and the need for substantial operational change at local authority level. Among Member States, the UK position is supported by Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary. Other Member States are more supportive of stringent targets, including France, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. There is also a difference of view between the UK Administrations, with the UK Government approach being supported by Northern Ireland while Scotland and Wales favour a more ambitious approach.
34.6The UK will decide on its position once a compromise has been reached between the Council and the European Parliament. Negotiations are expected to continue for several months with a view to securing a final agreement by the end of the year.
34.7These documents were cleared from scrutiny by resolution of the House on 8 March 2016 following the debate in European Committee A on 7 March 2016. We nevertheless take a strong interest in the matter, given the Minister’s view that, despite the UK’s departure from the EU, there is likely to be an expectation that the UK adopts these, or broadly equivalent, measures. We therefore seek the Minister’s response to the following questions.
34.8Regarding the salience of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, we ask the Minister to explain from where the expectation of adoption of this amending legislation, or broadly equivalent measures, is likely to come. Under the terms of the Repeal Bill, the EU legislation as currently transposed in the UK would be incorporated as “retained EU law”. Taking into account trade in affected products between the UK and the EU, as well as the import and export of waste, what assessment has the Government undertaken of the implications of deciding not to adopt these new, or broadly equivalent, measures?
34.9Since the Minister wrote, the Prime Minister has indicated that she would like to see a post-Brexit “implementation period”, the framework for which would be the “existing structure of EU rules and regulations”. Given that this package of legislation would need to be implemented eighteen months after its entry into force, the implementation date could fall within this post-Brexit period. In his evidence to the Exiting the EU Committee on 25 October, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said: “Anything that would have impact during [the implementation period] will already have been agreed with us in advance.” Does the Government consider that this package of legislation is an example of that type of law?
34.10We note a difference in ambition both between Member States and between the UK Administrations. We would welcome the Minister’s analysis as to why ambitious targets may be achievable in certain parts of the EU and the UK but not in other parts of the EU and the UK and to what extent the UK might seek to learn from best practice elsewhere.
34.11Given the variable levels of ambition across the UK, we ask the Minister to confirm that the Directive would set minimum targets and that Member States and sub-national levels of government, including English local authorities, would be able to pursue more ambitious policies should they be so minded.
34.12In the debate on these documents, which took place before the referendum on EU membership, the then Minister (Rory Stewart) lauded the development of voluntary approaches, including the North Sea Resource Roundabout. This initiative featured collaboration between the UK and the Netherlands to identify regulatory barriers to the trade and use of recycled materials. How supportive does the Government remain of such initiatives? To what extent do they retain value if there is a possibility of regulatory divergence in any case post-Brexit?
34.13The Minister has offered a further update as negotiations progress. We look forward to a timely update, including any shift in the views of other Member States and progress in reaching an agreed UK position.
34.14We draw this Chapter to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the Environmental Audit Committee, the Communities and Local Government Committee, the Welsh Affairs Committee, the Scottish Affairs Committee and the Northern Irish Affairs Committee.
(a) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste: (37377), + ADDs 1–3, COM(15) 595; (b) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste: (37378), + ADDs 1–3, COM(15) 596; (c) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste: (37376), + ADDs 1–2, COM(15) 594; (d) Proposal for a Directive amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment: (37375), + ADDs 1–2, COM(15) 593.
34.15The Commission proposes to amend six distinct pieces of existing waste policy legislation:
34.16The details of the proposals were set out in the Report of 20 January 2016. Key elements included:
34.17The Government initially expressed concern about the possible costs of the proposed targets and about the restrictive nature of the provisions on extended producer responsibility. The Committee considered that the proposal raised a number of important issues and recommended it for debate.
34.18During the debate, there was general support for the concept of the circular economy and for an EU role in it. The then Minister (Rory Stewart) concluded by pointing to three areas on which to focus: food waste reduction; household recycling; and the development of voluntary approaches such as the North Sea Resources Roundabout.
34.19The Minister summarises the European Parliament’s position as follows:
“The European Parliament adopted their amendments to the proposals in March 2017, securing a huge majority (over 600 votes) in favour of very ambitious measures. These include a 70% recycling target for municipal waste by 2030 (plus an additional 5% target for reuse of products), a 5% target for the amount of municipal waste going to landfill, and an 80% target for the reuse or recycling of packaging waste. They also supported additional targets for food waste and marine litter reduction and a very restrictive regime for Extended Producer Responsibility schemes.”
34.20In Council, notes the Minister, the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) granted the Maltese Presidency a negotiating mandate on 19 May in order that trilogue discussions could begin with the European Parliament. The Minister describes the Presidency’s position as aiming for “ambitious but achievable measures”, including:
“a 60% recycling target for municipal waste by 2030, a 10% target for landfilling of municipal waste, with a five year derogation for 11 Member States who are performing poorly at present (not the UK) and a 70% target for reuse and recycling of packaging waste. [The mandate] also supported a more flexible approach towards Extended Producer Responsibility schemes which would allow Member States some degree of discretion when implementing the measures, compared with the original proposals.”
34.21The Minister goes on to set out the process:
“The first trilogue discussion took place on 30 May, setting the scene and setting out priorities for the discussion. The second trilogue took place on 26 June. These discussions are expected to continue for several months. The Council, the Parliament and the Commission will negotiate a final compromise package. Member States will vote on whether to adopt the package once it has been finalised.”
34.22As regards transposition and the salience of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the Minister notes that the UK will have withdrawn from the EU by the time the Directives need to be transposed into national legislation. She observes that “it is too early to tell to what extent the UK would be required to implement the measures”, but that “there is likely to be an expectation that we do adopt these or broadly equivalent measures”. As a consequence, the UK has “been fully engaged in the preparation of the Council position”.
34.23Turning to the UK’s position, the Minister says:
“The UK broadly supports the Circular Economy waste proposals as these are generally aligned to our policy objectives to improve resource efficiency, increase recycling and reduce landfilling. We have concerns, however, about the feasibility of achieving very ambitious recycling targets for municipal waste:
34.24The Minister sets out the views of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Administrations in the following terms:
“The Scottish and Welsh Governments support the European Parliament’s 70% target while Northern Ireland shares the UK Government’s view that targets must be both ambitious and achievable. Wales has introduced a statutory target to recycle 70% of municipal waste by 2025. Scotland has a public target to recycle 70% of all waste by 2025.”
34.25The Minister explains that views among Member States on targets are split. Those who have joined the UK in calling for achievable recycling targets for municipal waste are Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and Romania. Those in favour of ambitious recycling targets are the Netherlands, France, Austria, Belgium and Sweden.
34.26Beyond targets, the Minister says:
“The UK is broadly supportive of the other elements of the Council position which include: (i) achievable targets for landfilling municipal waste and packaging waste, and (ii) a more flexible approach to the minimum requirements for Extended Producer Responsibility schemes including that requirements will not apply to voluntary schemes and that there will be some flexibility in the provisions covering financial responsibility.”
34.27The Government is concerned about several aspects of the European Parliament’s position, notably:
34.28The UK, says the Minister, will decide on its voting position once the Council and European Parliament have arrived at a compromise. It is anticipated that the Estonian Presidency will seek to secure a final agreement by the end of the year. The Minister will write again to provide an update as discussions progress.
20 November 2017