Figures from Eurostat showed that the recycling rate for the 27 EU members rose to 63.6% in 2011 compared to 63.3% in 2010.
However, the 12 countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 – including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania – had an average recycling rate of 50.6%, according to the statistics.
The figures have prompted calls for a focus on those countries’ recycling systems from Europen, the Brussels-based packaging and environment organization.
Virginia Janssens, Managing Director of Europen, said the data was “encouraging” and “clearly demonstrates the packaging supply chain’s achievements as, overall, the EU packaging recycling and recovery targets are being met or exceeded”.
“However, it also underlines the need for full implementation and enforcement of EU waste legislation in all Member States to help close the existing gaps between Member States.
The data showed a 1.9% increase in packaging placed on the market in 2011 compared to 2010, but a 2.7% decline in packaging waste sent for final disposal over the same period.
A statement from Europen said that differences between EU member States in a range of areas including definitions for recycling and recovery, calculation methodologies, implementation and enforcement of EU legislation, waste management infrastructure and consumption rates of packaged goods were “a real obstacle” to all those states meeting the same existing and future targets.
Speaking at Europen’s 20th anniversary event earlier this month, Louis Lindenberg, global packaging sustainability director at Unilever said: “Realistic recycling and recovery targets should take into account different Member State specificities and be combined with a requirement for the separate collection of post-consumer packaging in the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD).
“The increased collection of post-consumer packaging across Europe is an important step towards Europe’s transition to a resource efficient economy. It is also imperative to harmonise national rules for calculating and reporting recycling and recovery rates.”
Janssens added: “New EU targets should reflect the impact of potential harmonisation of calculation methodologies and definitions on the existing recycling and recovery rates
“The focus should also be on improving extended producer responsibility schemes (EPR) at national level. EUROPEN calls for legal provisions in the PPWD that ensure a level playing field for the operation of competing EPR schemes, such as a harmonised definition of EPR, minimum requirements for EPR schemes to ensure transparency and efficiency and clear roles and responsibilities for Member States and economic operators.”