5 Ways to Make Europe’s Circular Economy Strong

A strong Circular Economy package is important for Europe and for the metals industry, and so we recently sent an open letter to Commission officials, insisting on the need for ambitious and concrete policymaking.

When the Commission officially presents the package on 2nd December, we hope that it reflects the five recommendations from our letter below.

1. Recycle more and better

Too much of Europe’s waste is still landfilled or incinerated instead of recycled. We’re hoping to see a progressive landfill ban on all recyclable goods. We’d also like to see ambitious, but pragmatic waste recycling targets for Member States, and separate collection of waste streams.

More holistically, it’s time for recycling levels to be calculated in the same way across Europe (at the level of input into pre-processeing), instead of in the fragmented system we have today.

2. Insist on European standards for European metals

Too many of our metals are still exported outside of Europe, where there’s no guarantee they’re recycled safely or efficiently. For some waste streams, a mandatory certification scheme is needed to ensure that only companies which comply with quality standards can recycle our metals. 

3. Reduce illegal exports

Europe can and must do more to stop the illegal export of waste, which contains a lot of valuable materials, and can be harmful to human health and the environment if not properly treated.

An estimated 1.5 million tonnes of e-waste – filled with valuable metals – is shipped out of Europe each year, much of it falsely classified as ‘2nd hand goods’.

We’re expecting measures to improve control at EU borders. It would also be great to see regular monitoring for “end-of-waste” export flows.

4. Improve the recyclability of products

Product manufacturers need to do more to make parts accessible to recyclers. Otherwise, we’ll keep losing materials that could easily be recycled. We’re hoping that the European Commission will require that resource efficiency is taken into account under the Ecodesign Directive. That’s already done a good job of improving energy efficiency, and we’d like it to improve recyclability as well.

5. Make trading waste easier in Europe

There are still too many barriers when trading waste within Europe – from burdensome administrative procedures, to differing requirements across Member States.

We want to see harmonised definitions of ‘waste’ and ‘by-products’ across Member States, and the uniform use of European waste codes. We’d also like to see the Commission make it easier to transport waste to ‘pre-consented’ recovery facilities. This would be a win-win, easing administrative burden on both sides without weakening controls.  

Want to learn more about our ideas for the Circular Economy Package? Check out our open letter and position paper.