Analysis: ‘Significant changes’ required to meet EU recycling targets

Analysis: ‘Significant changes’ required to meet EU recycling targets

Nordic countries would need to increase recycling 16 to 32 percent to meet target of 65 percent by 2035.

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Nordic nations require a significant increase in recycling in order to meet the revised European Union (EU) recycling targets, according to international environmental consultancy Eunomia Research & Consulting.

Of the Nordic countries reporting their recycling rate to Eurostat, which provides statistics to EU institutions, an increase of 16 to 32 percent is required to meet the new EU target of 65 percent by 2035. The figures are based on analysis of the existing Nordic regulatory framework and the impact of policies on waste prevention and recycling in the region, the firm says in a news release.

The research was commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers Waste Group (NWG), now part of the Nordic Working Group for the Circular Economy, and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to “give better understanding of the effect of existing policy on the management of household waste.” Eunomia’s analysis found “significant changes will be required in order for the region to meet the EU targets.”

2018 European Union directives contain higher targets for recycling, along with “stricter definitions of recycling," significant new requirements for EPR and higher standards for recycling collections, including mandatory separate collection of biowaste. An April report by the EU warned that 14 member countries were “at risk” of missing the recycling target of 50 percent by 2020.

In-depth policy analysis for Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland found that implementing deposit return systems (DRS) for metal containers, alongside extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems and landfill bans on both combustible waste and biodegradable waste “all had a significant positive effect on recycling rates.”

Research also found “significant change" will be required in every nation of the Nordic region in order to achieve the targets set out in the revised EU waste directives. Specifically, a significant shift away from incineration and landfilling in Iceland is required.

The report proposes several changes to support this shift. Key actions would include a dramatic increase in recycling collection coverage from households and businesses, as well as a reform of waste management policy to include leverage of additional taxation measures. These actions would be supported by the development of new recycling and biowaste infrastructure and the use of a wider range of behavior change interventions, the firm says. The report also concludes that in order to meet recycling targets, it will be necessary for the economics of municipal recycling to change across the region and for “recycling to be made more attractive.”

“With the 2018 circular economy package making significant updates to key European Union directives, it’s great to see the Nordic region focused on how it can make changes to move towards a truly circular economy,” says Eunomia’s Senior Consultant Camilla Durrant. “The report shows that the nations face common challenges and despite the many differences between them, it seems an ideal time for the region to accelerate cooperation and collaboration in this area to bring about meaningful change.”