The European Parliament has formally adopted new laws to prevent waste and boost recycling this week. 

The European Parliament has approved higher recycling targets and new measures to reduce waste across Europe.

The vote comes four months after the same laws and targets were agreed by the European Commission, Parliament and governments as part of the three-way negotiations known as trilogues.

Environment ministers from all the 28 EU countries are also expected to formally approve the agreement in the coming weeks, before the laws can officially be transposed into national legislation within 24 months from that moment.

EU countries will now be required to recycle at least 55% of their municipal waste by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035. Other approved measures include a 10% cap on landfill by 2035, mandatory separate collection of biowaste and stricter schemes to make producers pay for the collection of key recyclables.

Recommendations also include economic incentives for reuse, deposit-return schemes, food donations and the phase-out of subsidies that promote waste.

The table outlines the major agreements. 

Commenting on the news, Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:

After years of discussions, it is now time for EU countries to walk the talk on waste reduction. These laws are necessary to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues such as pollution in our cities and environment.”

He noted that “the new laws could have been more ambitious,” but also added that “their successful implementation will help governments consolidate this progress with benefits for the people and society as a whole.”

The agreed recycling targets are less ambitious than the 70% by 2030 proposed by the European Parliament, and the 65% by 2030 championed by the Commission.

Last year, the EEB denounced the lack of ambition surrounding many EU governments in the negotiations and the level of secrecy in the discussions.

Unlike amendments and votes in the European Parliament, where discussions are recorded and publicly available, three-way negotiations take place behind closed doors. Citizens are therefore prevented from knowing the position of their governments, let alone joining the debate, said the EEB.

The group asked government officials whether they would support the proposed laws and targets.

The majority of member states, including Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Poland, opposed most of waste prevention proposals. These include measures to make preparation for reuse mandatory, which in the end was not approved, and a 10% target for packaging reuse waste prevention targets, for which no targets were agreed.