By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europeans will need to recycle 70 percent of urban waste and 80 percent of packaging waste by 2030, the European Union proposed on Wednesday, as it pushes to cut the amount of trash produced by its 500 million citizens.
Fostering an environmentally friendly economy has long been a priority for the European Union, which argues it would set the 28-country bloc on a sustainable path to growth after the financial crisis.
"If we want to compete we have to get the most out of our resources, and that means recycling them back into productive use, not burying them in landfill as waste," said Janez Potocnik, the EU's environment commissioner.
By 2025, the EU executive is also pushing for a ban on sending recyclable waste, such as paper and plastic, to landfill and a 30 percent reduction in the amount of food thrown away.
The proposals would build on the EU's current target to recycle half of all its trash by 2020, but member states are falling short of that.
In 2012, EU countries recycled just 27 percent of their urban waste, while over a third was put in landfill, according to data from Eurostat, the EU's statistics agency.
The EU is reviewing its 10-year strategy for boosting growth and cutting greenhouse gas emissions by a fifth by 2020 and in Wednesday's proposal suggested introducing a new target for the efficient use of raw materials.
"We have already made strong progress towards increasing recycling and reducing landfilling over the last decade," Potocnik said.
Germany was closest to achieving the 50 percent target in 2012, recycling 47 percent of its waste and burying none of it. Romania buried 99 percent of its urban rubbish.
The proposals received a cautious welcome from environmental campaigners, who said they were a step in the right direction but a lot more remained to be done.
"More recycling alone does not mean that Europe's overconsumption of resources is actually reduced," said Benedek Javor, spokesman for the Greens in the European Parliament.
"The top priority should be a greater focus on prevention of waste, with ambitious reduction targets."
The proposals need the blessing of the newly elected European Parliament and national governments before becoming law.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Janet Lawrence)