Recycling and resource efficiency
Much of the material inputs used by European industry comes from secondary, or recycled, sources. Indeed, Europe’s ‘urban mine’ supplies are a considerable and valuable source of raw materials.
As the processing of recycled material requires less energy than the processing of virgin raw materials, recycling can reduce production costs and carbon emissions. While recycling cannot meet all of European industry's demand for raw materials, there is still further potential for greater recycling. This is the case especially for materials used in relatively low quantities and for those contained in complex products. For example, most critical raw materials have a recycling rate below 20%. Apart from recycling, resource efficiency and substitution also play a part in easing the dependence on primary raw materials and import dependency.
In the Raw Materials Initiative strategy document published on 2 February 2011, the European Commission proposed a number of measures aimed at improving how recycling markets work namely through the development of best practices in collection and treatment of waste, improvement in the availability of certain statistics on waste and materials flows, reviewing EU waste and ecodesign legislation, support for research and innovation and the promotion of economic incentives for recycling.
This strategy also reaffirms the need for action to improve the enforcement of waste rules, in particular to tackle illegal shipments of waste from Europe to non-OECD countries where the treatment often results in damage to the environment and a permanent loss of material. A study [5 MB] examining the feasibility of a certification scheme for recycling facilities, based on environmentally sound management was finalised in November 2012.
Many of these objectives have been incorporated into the Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative on Resource Efficiency and the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe adopted in September 2011.