The European Commission has released a report that identifies member states at risk of not being able to meet the 2025 closed economy target. The target is to prepare for reuse and recycling of municipal and packaging waste and landfill waste by 2035. These plans are set forth in the Waste Framework Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Closed-loop economy – conclusions of the report

According to the published report, nine countries are on track to meet the 2025 targets: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Italy. For the remaining eighteen member states, there is a risk that they will not meet their targets. For Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Portugal and Sweden, the problem is municipal waste, while for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, the problem is both municipal waste and general packaging waste.

What does the closed-loop economy look like in the European Union today?

Europeans, according to calculations, produce an average of 530 kg of municipal waste per person per year (from households and similar waste from businesses). They are increasingly recycled and less often landfilled. Municipal waste is one of the most difficult types of trash to manage. In the EU, about 50% are recycled or composted and 23% are landfilled. Although the closed-loop economy has become increasingly important in recent years, a gradual, steady increase in the amount of packaging waste generated can be observed.

Between 2013 and 2020, the amount of packaging waste generated increased by 15% across the EU, reaching nearly 80 million tons. About 64% of them are now recycled, although this depends on the material they are made of. More than 75% of paper, cardboard and metal packaging is recycled, compared with less than 40% of plastic packaging. This is a problem in most EU countries, and many risk not being able to meet the recycling target for plastic packaging waste.

European Commission’s recommendations for improving the circular economy

The European Commission has made specific recommendations to 18 member states at risk of not being able to meet the 2025 major recycling targets. These recommendations cover a wide range of activities: Reducing non-recyclable waste, increasing separate collection and reuse, developing waste processing capacity for sorting and recycling, improving management, implementing economic instruments and raising awareness.

The European Commission will continue to support member states in implementing EU waste legislation through EU funding, technical assistance (e.g., implementation of environmental policies, exchange of best practices and promotion of mutual learning). National authorities, however, are responsible for increasing political action and intensifying work on the ground.

In addition, the European Commission has outlined initiatives that contribute to the development of a circular economy and will support member states in improving their waste management performance and meeting targets. Proposals for new regulations on waste shipments, packaging and packaging waste, and eco-design for sustainable products have been proposed in support of the development of a circular economy.

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