Documents considered by the Committee on 31 January 2018 Contents

11EU Legislation on Waste

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

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, the Environmental Audit, the Communities and Local Government, the Welsh Affairs, the Scottish Affairs and the Northern Irish Affairs Committees

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2008/98/EC; (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 2012/19/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment

Legal base

(a) (c) and (d) Article 192(1) TFEU; ordinary legislative procedure; QMV; (b) Article 114 TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

Department

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Numbers

(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

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

11.1The 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.

11.2A provisional agreement between the EU institutions was reached in December and is now being considered by Member States before anticipated final adoption in March. It features a range of recycling and landfill targets as set out below.

11.3When the Committee considered these documents at our meeting of 13 November 2017, we raised a number of queries in relation both to the substance of the proposals and to Brexit. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Dr Thérèse Coffey) has responded, addressing our queries and providing a further update. She reports that agreement was reached between the EU institutions on 17 December 2017. While the Government is still waiting to see the final text, it understands that mandatory targets for municipal waste recycling will be set at 55% by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035. Full details of the Government’s understanding of the text are set out below.

11.4On Brexit, the Minister observes that, in the future, there could be changes in the UK’s approach to targets to reflect the value and environmental impact of materials collected rather than weight alone. In terms of the shorter term transposition of this legislation into UK law during any post-Brexit transition or implementation period, the Minister is non-committal, while noting that the transposition date would be mid-2020.

11.5Since the Minister wrote on 24 January, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has further clarified the UK’s approach to the implementation period.219 He was clear that, for such a period to work, both sides must continue to follow the same stable set of laws and rules.

11.6Addressing the contrasting levels of ambition within the UK and between Member States, the Minister notes that the greatest challenges for England are the scale of population and levels of urbanisation, which have an impact on local authority costs, collection arrangements and participation.

11.7While the Government has yet to take a public position on the provisional deal, it is alleged by Greenpeace that the Government has spoken out against the deal in discussions in Brussels.220 The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs responded in the following terms on 25 January 2018:

“We are anxious to make sure that, across the EU, we have the right targets. One of the flaws with the EU system, as I acknowledged earlier, is that because of its reliance on measuring through weight, it sometimes incentivises the wrong approaches.”221

11.8The debate takes place against the backdrop of the recently published 25 Year Environment Plan222 in which the Government made a commitment to meet all current waste and recycling targets and to develop ambitious new ones.

11.9We note that, since the Minister wrote, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has said that, for a post-Brexit implementation period to work, both sides must continue to follow the same stable set of laws and rules. We interpret this as meaning that the UK will apply any regulatory requirements applicable to EU Member States, including the transposition of legislation. While the final agreement on that period remains subject to negotiation, we now work on the assumption that the UK will apply the waste package in full, once it has been agreed, and would welcome the Minister’s confirmation that this is a fair assumption.

11.10In terms of the longer-term approach, we note the Minister’s view that Brexit “could” allow for changes in the UK’s approach to targets. Whether Brexit does permit such changes will of course be determined by the outcome of the negotiations on transition, withdrawal and the future relationship.

11.11Turning to the negotiated deal, we note that it represents a clear compromise between the Council position—which the Minister previously described as “ambitious but achievable”—and that of the European Parliament (EP). In relation to the proposal that 65% of municipal waste be recycled by 2035, for example, the Council had proposed 60% by 2030 and the EP had proposed 70% by 2030. The outcome is therefore much closer to the Council position than that of the EP. The 70% packaging waste recycling target is identical to that proposed by the Council, whereas the EP had proposed 80%.

11.12The Government is yet to take a position on the negotiated deal. We ask that the Government write to us once it has done so, with an accompanying analysis of the impact and achievability. It would also be helpful if the Minister could set her response in the context of the recent 25 Year Environment Plan, which committed not only to meeting current targets but to setting ambitious new ones. Should the Government decide to abstain or to vote against the deal, we ask that the Government submit to the Council a formal explanation of its position when the text is finally submitted for adoption.

11.13These 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 draw this Chapter to the attention of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Environmental Audit, the Communities and Local Government, the Welsh Affairs, the Scottish Affairs and the Northern Irish Affairs Committees.

Full details of the documents

(a) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste: (37377), 14975/15 + ADDs 1–3, COM(15) 595; (b) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste: (37378), 14976/15 + ADDs 1–3, COM(15) 596; (c) Proposal for a Directive amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste: (37376), 14974/15 + 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), 14973/15 + ADDs 1–2, COM(15) 593.

Background

11.14The details of the Commission’s proposals were set out in the Report of 20 January 2016. Key elements included: a common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030; a common EU target for recycling 75% of packaging waste by 2030 (with specific targets for distinct materials, such as 85% for aluminium, glass, iron and paper); and a binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of municipal waste by 2030.

11.15The Committee considered that the proposal raised a number of important issues and recommended it for debate. During 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.223

11.16In a letter of 5 July 2017 the Minister updated us on the progress of negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament. She described the Council’s negotiating position—adopted by the Committee of Permanent Representatives on 19 May 2017—as advocating “ambitious but achievable” measures. These included: 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.

11.17The measures proposed by the European Parliament were described by the Minister as “very ambitious”. These included 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 also proposed separate targets on food waste and on marine litter.

11.18The Minister expressed concern 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 was supported by Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary. Other Member States were more supportive of stringent targets, including France, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. There was also a difference of view between the UK Administrations, with the UK Government approach being supported by Northern Ireland while Scotland and Wales favoured a more ambitious approach.

11.19At our meeting of 13 November, we sought the Minister’s response to the following questions:

The Minister’s letter of 24 January 2018

Provisional agreement

11.20The Minister notes that a provisional agreement was reached with the European Parliament on 17 December 2017. The Government has the following understanding of the provisional agreement:

Mandatory targets for municipal waste recycling will be set at 55% by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035, although the latter is subject to review in 2024. The UK has consistently pushed for these targets to be realistic and achievable.

“There is also provision for a target to limit landfill to no more than 10% by 2030, and an overall packaging waste recycling target of 65% by 2025 and 70% by 2030, with the following sub-targets for packaging materials:

11.21The Minister goes on to say that the provisional agreement retains requirements for separate collection (either kerbside or at disposal sites) of at least paper, plastic, metal and glass, and extends these requirements to include textiles and hazardous household waste by 2025. In addition, separate collection of bio-waste will be mandatory from 31 December 2023. Member States may apply a derogation where separate collection is not technically, environmentally, and economically practicable.

11.22Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes must cover at least half the necessary costs on existing schemes, rising to at least 80% of costs by 2025. Following the Directive’s entry into force, all new EPR schemes must ensure that the producers cover at least 80% of costs. EPR will be mandatory for all packaging placed on the market from 2025.

11.23There are also alterations to calculation methods and derogation mechanisms, as well as a new definition of municipal waste being:

Municipal waste does not include waste from production, agriculture, forestry, fishing, septic tanks and sewage network and treatment including sewage sludge, end-of-life vehicles and construction and demolition waste.

11.24The Government is currently assessing the provisional agreement. Once the Government has received the final text, it will be considered in detail by Member States and discussed at COREPER (Member State Ambassadors). The Government currently anticipates a vote on the package is at the next Environment Council in March, although this is subject to confirmation by the Bulgarian Presidency

Implementation period

11.25On the implementation period, the Minister says:

“The Prime Minister said in her speech in September that during the implementation period the UK’s and the EU’s access to each other’s markets should continue on current terms. This entails continuing to transpose EU legislation into domestic legislation until exit.

“The Department for Exiting the EU has been very clear that the implementation period should be based on the existing structure of EU rules and regulations, so that people and businesses only need to make one set of changes as we move to our future partnership. Given the way the EU processes operate, and the time limited nature of the implementation period, it is unlikely that significant new legislation will be implemented in the UK that we will not have had a chance to influence. Until we leave the EU, we will continue to input to proposals in the usual way.

“The UK’s departure from the EU could however allow for changes in our approach to targets to reflect the value and environmental impact of materials collected rather than weight alone.

“Once the amendments to the Waste Directives are adopted, there will be a two year transposition deadline, which will run to the period when the UK has left the EU (summer 2020), but within the anticipated two year implementation period. Therefore, it is too early to tell to what extent the UK will be required to implement the measures as the nature of our relationship, rights and obligations will be a matter for our negotiations on EU exit.”

Targets

11.26The Minister offers no comment on whether ambitious targets are achievable in other Member States, as the Government has not seen their analysis.

11.27In terms of the achievability of ambitious targets within the UK, the most influential factors, says the Minister, are the scale of population in England compared to Wales and Scotland, and the levels of urbanisation in England which have an impact on local authority costs, collection arrangements and participation. She adds:

“In particular, there is significantly more and greater variation in housing design in England for high density properties, with waste storage facilities varying for each in terms of proximity and access for the householder and collection crews. This presents further difficulties where containers cannot be presented in a standard location (such as in kerbside rounds): collection costs increase as operatives spend more time on accessing facilities, meaning fewer properties can be serviced in one day, and more crews and fleet are therefore required.

“Other factors affecting recycling rates in urban areas regularly cited are limited space for collection infrastructure, lower levels of owner occupation and transient populations.”

11.28The Minister says that the Government will continue to learn from other Member States and the Devolved Administrations. She confirms that the targets set out in the Directive will be minimum targets. The Devolved Administrations and local authorities are therefore able to pursue more ambitious policies if they choose to do so.

North Sea Resources Roundabout

11.29The Minister also confirms that the Government is still supportive of and wishes to participate in the North Sea Resources Roundabout (which includes France, Flanders, the UK and the Netherlands). She notes that it is not an EU initiative and could in principle be extended to include other EU and non-EU countries. The Government does not see its value diminishing as a result of the UK leaving the EU. Post-Brexit, the UK will still want to further trade in secondary materials with other countries and the Roundabout will, she says, remain a useful vehicle for continued collaboration regardless of EU membership.

Previous Committee Reports

First Report HC 301–i (2017–19), chapter 34 (13 November 2017); Twentieth Report HC 342–xix (2015–16), chapter 1 (20 January 2016); Sixteenth Report HC 342–xv (2015–16), chapter 2 (6 January 2016).





2 February 2018