Policy Round-Up.

Circular Economy Negotiations: Defra Presses on despite Brexit

At a packed meeting with waste and resource sector representatives on 15 July, Defra officials insisted that they would press on with negotiations on the EU circular economy proposals, despite EU referendum result.

Defra pointed out that the UK remains a full member of the EU until the formal exit takes place, which is probably more than two years away, and that it is still possible that all or some of the EU’s waste and resource legislation may continue to apply to the UK even after exit, depending on the terms of separation.

Questioned about a potential loss of UK influence in the negotiations following the referendum result, Defra officials insisted that both the European Council and the Commission had instructed their staff to treat the UK as a full EU member during the exit process. However, some loss of UK leverage seems inevitable.

The UK Government’s decision, announced on 20 July, that it would not take up its six month Presidency of the EU when its turn comes in July 2017, may be seen by some as a further sign of the UK’s disengagement from Europe. The decision is understandable in terms of concentrating the UK’s diplomatic resources on the exit negotiations, but nevertheless it may turn out to be a lost opportunity to influence EU business – possibly even including the circular economy negotiations, which may well be nearing a conclusion by July 2017.

At the 15 July meeting Defra reported that the Slovakian Presidency is planning to hold two working party meetings per month on the waste proposals in the Circular Economy Package, and aims to present a progress report to the December meeting of EU Environment Ministers.

Defra also reported that good progress is being made in the discussions between member states’ officials on issues such as the definitions of biowaste and reuse, and the rules on by-products and end of waste, while more difficult debates are continuing on the definition of municipal waste, the recycling calculation methods and waste prevention targets.

In response to questions from industry representatives, Defra officials said that the UK supported inclusion of a quantity criterion in the definition of municipal waste to avoid too much C&I (commercial and industrial) waste coming into definition. They also said that the UK advocates the inclusion of incinerator bottom ash recycling in the calculation of recycling rates. On extended producer responsibility, Defra said the UK supported having minimum rules, but had “subsidiarity” concerns at the prescriptive nature of the Commission proposals.

Taken from CIWM Journal August 2016 – The Journal for Waste & Resource Management professionals.