Brussels - Seas At Risk is dismayed that the new European Commission has announced it will withdraw key environmental legislative proposals in its 2015 work programme, including the vital circular economy package and its waste legislation review. 

Despite strong objections from member states, MEPs and the environmental and business sectors, the Commission withdrew its ambitious proposal to review and strengthen existing waste legislation. Seas At Risk fully supported this proposal as an essential part of the effort to tackle marine litter. The importance of this fight was highlighted by the release of a report from Five Gyres last week, showing that there is at least 250,000 tonnes of plastic floating in our oceans [1]. Although the Commission has stated that the proposal will be reissued in the future, there are concerns that such a reintroduced package would not be as strong. Seas At Risk is determined to maintain an environmental approach in any such legislation.

The new Commission has previously stated that it will seek to cut European ‘red tape’ over its five year term, and make job promotion its top priority. However, as recently shown once again in an EU survey, European citizens are overwhelmingly supportive of EU action on environmental issues, consistently citing it as one of the areas where the Union works most effectively. In that same survey, 79% stated that they agreed that the efficient use of natural resources can boost economic growth, making the withdrawal of the package on democratic or popularity grounds an argument without basis.

Monica Verbeek, Seas At Risk’s Executive Director said ‘The circular economy package is vital to ending the flow of rubbish into our oceans - action must be backed up with legislation if we are to ensure waste is treated as a valuable resource. It is extremely disappointing that the Commission is back-tracking on its own policies, and in doing so seriously harming efforts to achieve clean seas by 2020.’ The circular economy package would provide a helping hand to member states who are trying to achieve an end to harmful levels of marine litter by 2020, as committed to under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

The Commission stated that it is withdrawing the package as they do not foresee an agreement being reached between Member States and the Parliament. Monica Verbeek addressed this point ‘the reasons just don’t add up; there has been widespread support for the package from MEPs, member states and even business lobbies, and the legislative process had only just begun. Cutting this proposal is an anti-jobs, anti-environment and anti-common sense move.’

The 7th Environmental Action Programme, which was agreed upon by member states and MEPs in 2013, also included provisions for increasing recycling targets and other necessary measures needed to implement a circular economy. 

Seas At Risk previously joined a number of other NGOs in two joint letters (see here and here) to Commission president Junker and Vice-President Timmermans, asking that they not sacrifice the waste review, the plastic bags proposal and other progressive legislation. We believe, with our fellow signatories, that attempts to popularise the EU by cancelling action in one of the most popular areas of action is doomed to failure.


[1] ‘Plastic Pollution in the World's Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea’

For more information, please contact:

Emma Priestland, Marine Litter policy officer

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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