How the European Green Deal impacts waste management

A clear outline of how the EU Green Deal affects organizational waste management. 

Waste management is an unavoidable sustainable practice that all companies must contend with, regardless of their size or function. Regulations to control and direct the way in which waste is disposed of is growing alongside general awareness of its environmental impact. In the dynamic waste landscape, it’s becoming more challenging for companies to remain compliant with EU waste management directive requirements and best practices. This is where the EU Green Deal comes in.  

What is the European Green Deal?

The European Commission introduced the EU Green Deal to address and combat waste management challenges. Established in 2019, the European Green Deal (EDG) provides a roadmap to help the EU transition to climate neutrality by reducing carbon emissions to 55% by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.  

Its key policies set out to reach these ambitious emission reduction targets by: 

  • Pursuing green, affordable, and secure energy 
  • Introducing an industrial strategy for a cleaner and circular economy 
  • Setting in motion sustainable and smart mobility 
  • Fostering sustainable agriculture and fisheries for food waste 
  • Ensuring zero pollution 
  • Making investments greener 

The European Parliament is focused on decoupling economic growth from resources use, while ensuring that no person or place is left behind. One of the most fundamental ways for achieving this is to tackle Europe’s approach to waste and waste management through a circular economy action plan.

Circular economy action plan

Adopted in March 2020, the EU’s circular economy action plan (CEAP) is a main building block of the European Green Deal. It’s been devised to aid organizations in managing their waste to ultimately meet the Green Deal’s targets.  

There are 35 actions listed in the plan that the Commission intends to implement, all aimed to: 

  • Make sustainable products the normal routine in the EU 
  • Empower consumers and buyers 
  • Focus on the sectors that use the most resources and where the potential for circularity is high — electronics, batteries, packaging, plastics, textiles, buildings, food and water 
  • Ensure less waste 
  • Make circularity function for people, regions, and cities 
  • Lead global efforts on circular economy 

The plan is focused on implementing a regenerative growth model through the circularity of materials and by lowering consumption footprints. Additionally, the plan is committed to halving the amount of residual (non-recycled) municipal waste, such as food waste and textiles, by 2030 by promoting cleaner waste streams and higher-quality recycling. In turn, the waste obligations of businesses will be influenced by circular economy processes that encourage sustainable consumption.  

Finally, the CEAP lead to the adoption of the regulation on waste shipments on 11 April 2024 and persistent pollutants in October 2022. 

The EU is focused on decoupling economic growth from resource use while ensuring that no person or place is left behind

Plastics waste management

Part of the EU’s circular economy action plan — the EU’s strategy for plastics — builds on existing EU measures to reduce plastic waste. The strategy focuses on supporting sustainable and safer consumption and production patterns for plastics, aiming for all plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2030.  

Adopted in January 2018, the plastics strategy aims to transform the way plastics are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU to protect the environment, reduce marine litter and greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate our reliance on imported fossil fuels.  

New rules will be established on packaging to improve the recyclability of plastics, strengthen the separate collection of plastic waste, and adhere to the EU pledging campaign to use 10 million tons of recycled plastics to make products in the EU by 2025.  

Consequently, manufacturers of plastic products will be subject to new design constraints, prohibitions, and requirements, building on the Single-Use Plastics Directive (EU) 2019/904. Also introducing a 77% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2025, increasing to 90% by 2029, this new legislation on plastics will impact retailers and consumers across Europe. Many businesses are aiming to get ahead of these changes and implement measures that move their operations away from plastic use or implement other schemes such as additional recycling and plastic credits. 

Waste Framework Directive

Several EU waste management laws will be, or have been, reviewed as part of the transition to a resource-efficient and competitive European economy. Chief among these is the Waste Framework Directive, the EU’s method for testing and managing waste in Europe. 

The framework establishes basic waste management principles and a five-step waste hierarchy, including definitions of waste, by-products, recycling, and recovery. The rules require that waste be managed in the following manner: 

  • Without endangering human health or the environment 
  • Without risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals 
  • Without causing noise or odors 
  • Without adversely affecting the countryside or places of interest 

To comply with the objectives of the directive, companies will be required to prepare for the reuse and recycling of municipal waste to be increased to a minimum of 55%, 60%, and 65% by weight by 2025, 2030, and 2035 respectively. 

According to a 2023 report by the EU Commission, nine EU member states were on track to meet the recycling targets and packaging waste laws for 2025, including: Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Slovenia.   

A proposal for a targeted revision of the directive was published on 5 July 2023 and is awaiting further action.  


Hazardous waste management

As hazardous waste poses a greater risk to the environment and human health than non-hazardous waste, the Waste Framework Directive provides additional labeling, monitoring and control regulations to cover the product’s entire lifecycle.  

The classification of hazardous versus non-hazardous waste mimics the classification and labeling of dangerous substances.  

Impact of European Green Deal on waste

Currently, the EU reports that only 38% of waste in the EU is recycled and over 60% of household waste still ends up in landfill. This amounts to five tons of waste produced by the average European annually. Several EU waste policies aim to contribute to the circular economy by reusing and recycling. The European Green Deal works with these schemes to promote a more sustainable and resource-efficient economy. To continue to work towards the EGD’s objectives, EU laws will be revised and proposed to ensure we’re employing best practices as a society. 

The European Green Deal currently has policies in place for multiple sectors, including: 

  • Batteries 
  • Biodegradable waste 
  • Construction 
  • Vehicles 
  • Landfill 
  • Mining 
  • Packaging 
  • Electrical and electronic equipment 
  • Sewage 
  • Waste oil 
  • Waste shipments 

As more and more legislation is published to control and mitigate waste, companies will be subject to stringent standards for the reuse and disposal of waste from their products and processes. 

Stay ahead of waste management

Organizational approaches to waste management have historically been inconsistent, with some relying on an unsystematic or partial approach to tackling emerging climate challenges. The EU Green Deal, and its associated laws, was introduced to address these discrepancies and encourage more effective approaches to waste management.  

To survive in this ever-changing landscape, companies need to stay ahead of the curve and implement a culture of positive waste management to ensure they’re fully compliant with the significant changes in place — and still yet to come.  

How Enhesa can help you

Dive deeper into the intricacies of the European Green Deal, its goals, its impact on your business, and how our Sustainable Chemistry solutions can help you stay ahead of emerging regulations.