Smoke and mirrors as Commission issues Circular Economy Package with weaker waste targets

EEB Reactions


Brussels, 2 December 2015


  • Circular Economy Package could cut EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2-4% every year
  • But weaker recycling targets than previous proposal will mean lower greenhouse gas emissions reductions and 110,000 fewer jobs in the UK, Germany, Poland and Italy [1]
  • As the EU urges ambitious  climate action  at COP21, the Commission fails to walk the talk

The European Commission has released a set of proposals aiming to make Europe more resource-efficient, but most of the legally binding targets have been watered down compared to the previous 2014 package.

Proposals issued today include a legally binding recycling rate of 65% across the EU by 2030 and a maximum limit to the amount of household waste that can be landfilled at 10% by the same year. The package will include a new Ecodesign working plan aimed at setting product design requirements for manufacturers so that goods are made to last longer and are more repairable and recyclable.

However, the waste targets are all weaker than those proposed in the 2014 version of the package [2], which the Commission withdrew with the sole argument that this was necessary to deliver more ambition [3].

Stéphane Arditi, Policy Manager for Products and Waste at the European Environmental Bureau, commented: “The Commission has failed to deliver on its promise to come with a more ambitious proposal. The addition of some nice initiatives does not offset the fact that the legally binding core of the package, notably the waste targets, is weaker than in last year’s proposal. We’ve ended up with a wasted year and a proposal that is less ambitious.

“Lowering the recycling targets compared to last year’s proposal means that more waste will be sent to landfill or incineration plants. This is a missed opportunity because recycling creates more jobs and causes fewer emissions than either landfill or incineration.

“Europe has no choice but to become more efficient with the resources it uses. A growing global population and increased demand for the planet’s materials is forcing this. But for it to happen fast enough European Parliament and the Council of Ministers will need to inject more life into this proposal, so that the EU can lead globally in this crucial area.”

A circular economy is an economic model where resources and materials are continuously re-used and recycled to reduce waste and pressure on the earth’s natural resources. Estimates from recent studies show that a circular economy could create 2 million new jobs, save European industry costs worth over €600 billion and lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions of between 2% and 4% every year [4].


For further information please contact:

Sébastien Pant, Communications Officer at the European Environmental Bureau,, or on +32  4 70 13 47 38

Notes to editors

[1] See research from Green Alliance reported in Euractiv:

[2] This is a non-exhaustive comparison table on the major differences between the 2014 and 2015 Circular Economy Packages:



2014 proposal

2015 proposal


Recycling target of household waste

70% by 2030

65% by 2030

Estonia, Greece, Croatia, Latvia, Malta, Romania and Slovakia may apply for 5 additional years to meet the target

Recycling target of packaging waste

80% by 2030

75% by 2030

Indicative target for food waste

30% food waste reduction in 2025 from 2017 level

No target although proposal for a harmonized methodology and reference to Sustainable Development Goals

Landfilling target

Aspirational target for a maximum of 5% non-hazardous household waste that can be landfilled in 2030 if not recyclable or compostable + ban on recyclable and compostable waste going to landfill

Maximum limit of 10% of household waste can be landfilled in 2030 (binding restriction) but that can include recyclable and compostable waste

Separate collection of biowaste

Ensure separate collection of biowaste by 2025

Ensure separate collection of biowaste as long as technically, economically and environmentally possible

Resource efficiency target

Indicative 30% target based on Raw Material Consumption

No mention

Focus of reducing resource use in Ecodesign policy

Covered although no deadlines set

Covered with indicative deadlines

Preventing obsolescence of products

Not mentioned

Independent testing programme on identification of issues related to planned obsolescence (2018) as part of non-binding action plan.

Quality standard for recycling

Mentioned as exemplary feature of circular economy, but not addressed as such

Development of quality standards for secondary raw materials (in particular for plastics) but as part of the non-binding action plan.

Information on resources in a product

Already covered in the WEEE Directive of 2012

Improve exchange of information between manufacturers and recyclers on electronic products



The proposals released in July 2014 by the Barroso Commission included 70% recycling targets for EU member states by 2030, the need to set up a separate collection for compostable waste by 2025 and a ban on recyclable and compostable waste sent to landfill. For a more detailed summary of the 2014 proposals, see here.

Numerous regions across Europe show that it is possible to achieve high recycling rates quickly when the political will is there. In 2002, the region of Gipuzkoa was sending 80% of its waste to landfill. In 2011, the recycling rate reached 32%. In 2015, it managed to reach the EU obligation for 2020, achieving a recycling rate of 51%.

The city of Ljubljana is the first capital in Europe to declare the goal of zero waste. In 2014, it managed to collect separately 61% of its municipal waste. The city has committed to increasing separate collection rates to 78% by 2025.

[3] First Vice-President Frans Timmermans withdrew the package with the promise he would return with a more ambitious proposal within the year (see coverage of this by Euractiv here:

[4] See European Commission Communication on Circular Economy (2014):