EU Parliament seeks binding targets to tackle overconsumption and waste

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Parliament on Tuesday called for the EU to introduce binding targets to use recycled content in products and consume fewer raw materials, to curb the pile-up of plastic pollution and stop reusable materials being wasted.

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters, where Brexit talks are taking place, in Brussels, Belgium, December 24, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The European Union’s executive Commission is drafting laws to rein in the environmental impact of the bloc’s consumption, by using fewer resources and switching from raw materials to more reused and recycled ones.

Recycled materials make up only around 12% of the materials used by EU industry, and the 27-country bloc incinerates more plastic waste than it recycles.

The EU Parliament adopted a report calling for the Commission to address these issues, to protect Europe’s natural landscapes and cut CO2 emissions - since producing new materials can be significantly more polluting than recycling old ones.

The Commission should propose mandatory EU requirements to use recycled content in certain products or sectors, plus binding targets to use less primary raw materials, parliament said.

The report aims to influence the Commission’s upcoming proposals.

Lawmakers said the Commission should propose standards this year, under the EU’s “Ecodesign Directive”, requiring products sold in Europe to meet criteria including that they are possible to recycle or repair.

“The real issue is that we should lower the use of primary materials, natural resources,” said Jan Huitema, lead lawmaker on the issue.

EU residents use up natural resources three times faster than the planet can replenish them, according to research by WWF and Global Footprint Network that was cited in the parliament’s report.

The EU needs a binding 2030 target to “significantly reduce the EU material and consumption footprints and bring them within planetary boundaries by 2050”, the lawmakers said.

Companies including consumer goods giant Unilever backed the proposals to increase use of recycled materials in products.

“We are supportive of any mandatory targets on the use of post-consumer recycled content,” a Unilever spokesperson said, adding that targets must be accompanied by measures to help make recycled materials price competitive, and boost their supply.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Alex Richardson