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Treating Waste as a Resource for EU Industry: Analysis of various waste streams and the competitiveness of their client industries

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Author:
ECSIP Consortium.

Waste not, want not" says the old proverb and industry and policymakers are increasingly working together to better exploit the potential of waste as a resource, create new jobs and industries and clean our environment.

Because better waste management in the context of a competitive, circular economy is one of the key challenges facing many companies today and we want to ensure that waste policies are designed to drive sustainable growth and jobs going forward, European Commission -  Enterprise & Industry commissioned a study "Treating Waste as a Resource for EU Industry: Analysis of various waste streams and the competitiveness of their client industries" that we are pleased to share with you. 

A scoping study "Treating Waste as a Resource for EU Industry: Analysis of various waste streams and the competitiveness of their client industries" is finalised after being launched on October 2012. It was conducted by an external consortium including the Danish Technological Institute, the Copenhagen Resource Institute, and ECORYS Netherlands. During February - April 2013 a series of interviews were held with relevant stakeholders for each waste stream selected (altogether 32 interviews).

  • The general objective: to investigate ways to promote a greater use of waste as a resource for European Industry while strengthening its competitiveness
  • The specific objectives:
    • to investigate the market typologies of various waste streams with a high potential for contributing to growth and improving the competitiveness in selected industries;
    • to analyse the main driving forces and barriers – including market failures – towards treating waste as a resource for industry;
    • to provide a framework to measure a possible decoupling process in the case of secondary raw materials for various waste streams.

 

Main characteristics of the waste stream selected:

  • Batteries (excluding car batteries): the current recycling rates are low, but this waste stream has a high content of different valuable precious and other metals with a high strategic value, however with simultaneous increase in substitution materials making it less interesting for recovery;
  • Iron and steel: rather homogeneous stream with already high levels of recycling (very high volumes associated with high prices and demand);
  • Used tyres: moderately high waste volumes and a good potential for improving recycling (competition between energy recovery and material recycling);
  • WEEE: currently has a rather low recycling rate while having a high content of different valuable precious and other metals;
  • Waste paper other than packaging: steady high volume of paper waste flows other than packaging (up 20 Mt) with a rather high total market value still has a medium potential.

 

Main findings:

The study proposed to develop a methodology for measuring the circular economy based on an input - output model. In this case, the input side was represented by the use of primary materials that should be decoupled from economic growth and through extended use of recyclables from environmental impacts as well. Nevertheless, in a circular economy, the inputs largely come from waste, keeping raw material extraction within a sustainable threshold. The output side investigated the waste that should be reused and recycled by the economy.

Whenever we are assessing the progress towards a circular economy we have to consider that every waste stream has a unique pattern, which is influenced by unique demand and supply conditions, price setting, entry barriers, value chains, business models and strategies, market power,
innovation, investments and growth perspectives, international trade considerations and global market perspectives.



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