Eurofer: EU Waste package is a step forward, but only part-way to closed recycling loop

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Recyclingkreislauf (Foto: stux / Pixabay)

Brussels — After more than two years of discussion, the European institutions have agreed, in principle, on a reform of EU waste rules. The package agreed amends several pieces of legislation, some of direct importance for the steel industry. The agreement „has tried to consolidate this transition from collection point measurement to the assessment of real recycling”, commented Axel Eggert, director general of the European Steel Association (Eurofer).

Creating a truly circular economy in Europe means having an efficient, accurate and coherent way of seeing how much material is put back into the value chain and recycled. Measuring recycling at the waste collection stage, which is how it has been done until now, generates significant losses later on in the recycling value chain. This means there has been a need for targets for ‘real’ recycling that correctly measure how much material is really recovered from waste and actually reprocessed.

According to Axel Eggert, steel is one of the most recyclable materials in widespread use. A ‘permanent’ material, it can be recovered and recycled infinitely without suffering the loss of its intrinsic qualities. Steel recycling is essential to the creation of a European circular economy; the establishment of this circular economy requires harmonised and coherent waste legislation.

“The agreement reached by the European Parliament and Council is a step forward because it proposes a methodology measuring recycling rates when waste materials are reprocessed into new products – we cannot accept that recyclable material is lost on the way to final recycling in steel production facilities”, stated Eggert.

He continued: “However, the proposal only goes part of the way towards accurate, harmonised measurement of real recycling because a derogation allows member states to declare material as ‘recycled’ even after an early waste sorting stage. This will give vastly different results than measuring recycling at the stage of reprocessing into new products”.

This outcome means that, despite the welcome ambition shown by the member states, the legislation will remain incomplete and will allow for disparate recycling rates between the member states, stated Axel Eggert. „The role of the Commission will be even more important during the implementation phase in ensuring greater harmonisation and reducing data gaps, tasks which are in the interest of all the member states.”

Source: European Steel Association (Eurofer)