EU action plan sets targets for future waste disposal

In December 2015, the European Commission adopted the action plan "Closing the loop – an Action Plan for a Circular Economy". The plan aims to reduce EU waste volumes. In Denmark, waste incineration is an important energy source, and the plan may therefore challenge the supply sector, says Sinne Conan, CEO of Konsentio, a public affairs bureau in Brussels.

A circular economy is a way of thinking production and consumption where the resources are recycled instead of ending up at the disposal site. At the seminar "A circular economy for municipalities and utilities" on 1 February, a number of central players presented how a circular economy will affect waste disposal and product development in the future. Sinne Conan, CEO of Konsentio and former long-term head of European politics at Dansk Industri, attended this seminar. She advises companies and organisations on the EU action plan for a circular economy.

"Closing the loop - an Action Plan for a Circular Economy" lists a number of targets for increased reuse and less deposit of municipal waste. The plan proposes recycling of 65 % of all household and industrial waste in 2030.

"The Commission's action plan for a circular economy sets targets for a reduction of the deposit and increased preparation for the purpose of recycling and reuse of the most important waste streams such as municipal waste and packaging waste. Further, the plan proposes additional measures in order to clarify and simplify the procedure, promote financial incentives and improve the schemes concerning extended manufacturer liability", says Sinne Conan.

In Denmark, approx. 40 % of the household waste is used for the production of district heating, and incineration of waste is therefore an important energy source. But this also means that the EU's action plan may place Denmark in an ambivalent position:

"The supply utilities must be aware that the action plan and the bills generally aim at less waste. If the supply utilities' focus on incineration, the plan means that there will be less waste to incinerate in the long run. The plan will also affect the district heating companies. The plan will therefore place Denmark in an ambivalent position. Reuse is an important element in relation to a circular economy, but waste incineration is also a central and integrated sector in Denmark", says Sinne Conan.

According to Sinne Conan, Denmark is already at the forefront in the EU when it comes to resource handling:

"Denmark was one of the first countries in the EU to develop and implement resource-effective strategies. In addition to Denmark, also Germany, Austria and Finland stood out from the beginning when it comes to resource effective solutions", she says.

THE ACTION PLAN'S TARGETS

  • A joint EU target concerning reuse of 65 % of the municipal waste no later than 2030
  • A joint EU target concerning reuse of 75 % of the packaging waste no later than 2030
  • Binding targets for the reduction of deposits of maximum 10 % of all waste no later than 2030
  • Prohibition against deposit of separately collected waste
  • Promotion of financial instruments to prevent depositing
  • Simplified and improved definitions and harmonized methods for the calculation of reuse percentages throughout the EU
  • Specific measures to promote reuse and encourage industrial symbiosis as the by-product of one company may be turned into the raw materials of another company
  • Financial incentives to encourage the manufacturers to market more environmentally friendly products and support schemes concerning recovery and reuse (e.g. packaging, batteries, electrical and electronic equipment and vehicles)

(Source: The European Commission)

A CIRCULAR ECONOMY FOR MUNICIPALITIES AND UTILITIES

At the seminar "A circular economy for municipalities and utilities" on 1 February, Horten and Konsentio gave insight into the overall thoughts on a future with a circular economy and what the idea behind a circular economy means in everyday life - both in the public sector and the supply sector. Guest speakers at the seminar were Connie Hedegaard, chairman of the green think tank Concito, Sinne Conan, CEO of Konsentio, Claus Torp, deputy director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Niels Mikkelsen, senior consultant at Minor Change Group, Karin Klitgaard, environmental policy director at DI and Jacob Hartvig Simonsen, man. director of the Danish Waste Association.

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