European MEPs have passed a circular economy report calling for a greater increase in resource productivity. Alongside backing proposals to implement a recycling target of 70% for municipal solid waste and 80% for packaging waste, the resolution also called for a 30% reduction in food waste by 2030 and the introduction of measures to reduce incineration of recyclable waste.

A total of 394 MEPs voted in favour of the report, putting pressure on the European Commission to propose binding waste reduction targets by the end of the year, which would come into force before 2018. Philip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood, offers his views on the the report.

The circular economy resolution - an opportunity we mustn’t ‘waste’

Widespread support for such a key environmental proposal is hugely positive news for the waste management sector – especially after last year’s scrapping of the previous circular economy resolution, which would have updated existing EU waste and landfill diversion laws to truly bring policy up to speed.

This said, despite a majority vote, the UK government is already pushing for the targets to be weakened. In fact, in a note circulated among British MEPs, the UK said there’s a risk the targets will become a ‘burden on businesses’ and that ‘incentives and voluntary agreements would be preferable to targets’.

Once again, it seems as though progress and decisive action is being let down by lack of support from those in power – a stumbling block we’ve been looking to overcome for a number of years. By failing to implement proper legislation, we are falling further and further behind other EU nations. Clear commitment from government is essential – not only to meet waste targets, but also to offset depleting landfill space.

What’s more worrying, however, is that we still seem to be ignoring the financial benefits of recycling. Waste, in particular food waste, is a valuable resource and shouldn’t be squandered. Instead, it can be turned into renewable energy – for which we have national targets – and nutrient-rich fertiliser for use on new crops, making the food chain not only highly efficient, but also environmentally-friendly and self-sufficient.

True commitment to resource productivity means not only supporting voluntary initiatives – such as existing food waste recycling guidelines - but taking concrete steps to set binding resource reduction targets. The European Parliament’s 30% reduction target is most definitely achievable, but must be stringently enforced.

Ultimately, we need to achieve behavioural change across businesses, local authorities and individuals to increase recycling in the UK. But, without wider government support, this will unfortunately be unachievable.