Is the Austrian presidency trying to delay the battle against plastic soup?

Is the Austrian presidency trying to delay the battle against plastic soup?

An amendment by the Austrian presidency of the EU-Council wants to delay the 90% collection target of plastic bottles, and undermines the Commission’s proposal of the Single-Use Plastics Directive.

27 oktober 2018 Recycling Netwerk

The Commission’s proposal was massively supported by the European Parliament last Wednesday. But the Austrian presidency tries to weaken the 90% target for plastic-bottle collection in 2025 to a much lower 75% , an official document leaked to Politico shows.

Lowering the 90% target for plastic bottles for 2025 would have severe effects on the Directive. Bottles are among the litter most found on beaches. They represent 40 percent of the volume of Europe’s litter.

 

Strong support from Commission and Parliament

The Commission proposes that Member States achieve a 90% separate collection target by 2025. This is good because it will keep bottles out the of environment. Furthermore, the target is achievable in percentage and within the established timeline. Lithuania has seen its bottle collection rates surge since it established a deposit return system in February 2016: in that same year, it already achieved a total return rate of 74%. By the end of 2017, they reached a return rate of 91.9%

Last Wednesday, the Directive got an overwhelming majority in the EU Parliament, 571 votes in favour on a total of 624, that means 91 per cent of the MEPs supports it. During the plenary session of the EP, not one political group tabled a single amendment to debate the bottle collection target. In fact, EU Parliament added a 35% recycled content target – which even strengthens the demand for a effective separate collection. Parliament and the Commission both have been receiving much praise for this by citizens and environmental NGOs throughout Europe.

 

Numerous Member States support the 90% target in 2025 in the Council

In the Council as well, many Member States are generally supportive of the Directive as proposed by the Commission and Parliament, and welcome its ambitions to tackle the plastic soup, including the 90% collection target for plastic bottles in 2025.

That is why one suggested revision from the current Austrian Presidency stands out. Their amendment on Article 9 decreases the ambitions on separate collection and is undermining the intended environmental impact of the SUP Directive.

Instead of aiming for a 90% separate collection target in 2025, the Presidency chooses to implement an intermediate step. Member States will have to collect only 75% of plastic bottles in 2025. The 90% target only has to be reached in 2030.

 

12 more years of plastic pollution

That is 12 years from now. Given the billions of plastic bottles sold every year, that means a huge amount of plastic will continue to pollute our seas. There is no rational justification to decrease the target in percentage or to expand the timeline. Yet, the Austrian Presidency is doing both.

What is perhaps most striking, is that sources at the European level say that the Austrian Presidency has drawn up this revision without a majority support in the EU Council. Numerous Member States are in fact supporting the 90% separate collection target in 2025 that was proposed by the Commission and supported by Parliament.

As an environmental NGO, we strongly recommend that the Commission’s target of 90% separate collection that received tremendous support in the EP will be held up integrally, without watering down and without delays. The plastic soup in our seas just can’t wait.