A key towards moving to sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
Recycling plays an underpinning role by reducing waste, by reducing consumption of natural resources and incontributing to greater energy efficiency. In this broad and diverse area, a lead market potential is seen in electrical and electronic waste and the waste from the end-of-life of vehicles.
The Recycling sector
Recycling reduces waste going to disposal, consumption of natural resources and improves energy efficiency. It therefore plays an essential role in the move towards sustainable consumption and production. The recycling sector has a turnover of €24 billion and employs about 500 000 persons. It is made up of over 60 000 companies. The EU has around 50% of world share of the waste and recycling industries. The EU has a range of regulatory measures dealing with waste: a strategic approach to waste and resources; legislation regulating waste treatment; and management of specific waste streams such as end-of-life vehicles, and electrical and electronic equipment.The lead market area places a focus on technologies and processes of waste products related to the directives such as Electrical and Electronic Waste (WEEE ) and End-of-life of vehicles (ELV).
Despite significant market potential, barriers to market development remain. Uncertainty on the product properties and weak market transparency in this highly fragmented market are important. There are problems with waste streams and there are indications of market failures, in particular for plastics. The establishment of common EU standards, labels and certificates constitutes a promising way to reduce the presence of those impediments. Appropriate external trade measures related to the standardisation formulation and enforcement are possible ways to adequately address the risk of circumventing the Union's waste management dispositions by exploiting different regulatory frameworks in other regions of the world. There is also potential to significantly improve recycling efficiency and capacity by encouraging innovation and introducing more effective processes and technologies. This would save costs, energy, and natural resources and thus help Europe to be less dependent on prices of raw materials. In this respect, the possible contribution of pilot plants to the reduction of innovation barriers and of the risk involved in upscaling new technologies is noteworthy.
The Commission proposes an action plan that integrates all necessary actions in a synchronised way to favour the innovation of the new products and services in the recycling market area. The actions range from standardisation, labelling and certification to ensure the quality of and product information on recycling products as well as the environmental friendliness of the recycling process. European citizens will benefit from the consolidation of the position of Europe's industry as a world leader, while environmental advantages will be significant.
- Mid-term progress report of Recycling (published in September 2009) [405 KB]
- Action plan for recycling [21 KB]
- Recycling taskforce report [145 KB]
CEN Packaging Standards
The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC) covers all packaging placed on the Community market and all packaging waste. Packaging has to comply with the Essential requirements as defined in an Annex to the Waste Framework directive. These requirements foresee that, amongst others, packaging must be recoverable whether it is reusable or not (either in the form of material recycling, energy recovery or organic recycling). A study is being launched to evaluate compliance to the Essential Requirements. Information provided shows that most of companies (about 65%) are using the CEN standards, other companies have developed their own internal procedures not based on the CEN standards (about 12%) and some other companies (about 24%) have no procedure yet. Standards play an important role in setting a level playing field for competition and it is important to understand how standards relating to recycled plastics are being complied with in practice in Member States.
- The packaging and packaging waste directive (website of the Environment DG)
Waste Framework directive
The Waste Framework Directive (WFD) was adopted by the Council on October 21, 2008. The WFD sets targets to the targets for the EU on household waste (50%) for 2020 and for construction and demolition waste (70%) for 2020. The WFD will act with significant force to boost improved waste management, greater recycling, and will help foster and support underpinning markets. The new Directive simplifies and modernises current EU waste legislation, i.e. clarifying the notions of recovery, disposal, end-of-waste status and by-product or defining the conditions for mixing hazardous waste. The Directive contributes to legal simplification by repealing the current waste framework directive (2006/12/EC), the directive on hazardous waste (91/689/EEC) and part of the directive on waste oils (75/439/EEC).
The responsibility for the implementation of the WFD is shared between the European Commission and the Member States. While Member States must design and implement waste prevention programmes, the Commission is set to report on progress concerning waste prevention. The LMI depends on a solid basis of waste and recycling legislation.
Further actions will be taken to support the implementation of the Waste Framework Directive, in particular dealing with market related issues, by organising events for Member States, industries and stakeholders.
- The Waste Framework Directive (website of the Environment DG)
Encourage Green Public Procurement
As part of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Package, a communication on Green Public Procurement has been published on July 16, 2008. It describes how procurement creates important demand for greener goods and environmentally friendly products and services. By doing so, it will also provide incentives for companies to develop environmental technologies; which can also include technologies for recycling processes. The communication identifies 10 priority areas for procurement. Future work will include the development of common GPP criteria for these areas; these criteria may include whether goods are of recycled origin.
- The Sustainable Consumption and Production Package (website of the Environment DG)
- Green Public Procurement