EU Science Hub

Waste and recycling

Today more than ever, the European Commission is working hard to preserve our limited resources. In 2004, it launched the Thematic Strategy on Prevention and Recycling of Waste. This long-term strategy aims at helping Europe to become a recycling society that avoids waste and uses any unavoidable waste as a resource. Following this line, the Waste Framework Directive was substantially amended in 2008, further focusing on minimisation of waste generation and maximisation of waste valorisation.

Since the inception of the new strategy, the JRC has collaborated closely with the Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment in implementing EU waste policies. As one of the tools to stimulate the development of the recycling sector, the JRC has developed the framework under which certain valuable waste streams can obtain 'end-of-waste status' and become products again, subject to the same open market rules as their primary raw material counterparts.

First steps towards better use of recyclable waste

Which waste streams could cease to be waste and become products? The JRC has developed a methodology for end-of-waste criteria, and has assessed which waste streams could cease to be waste with priority.

First end-of-waste studies completed and pioneering end-of-waste regulation adopted.

In 2011, the first EU Regulation on end-of-waste criteria for aluminium, iron and steel scrap (EU 333/2011) enters into force, based on proposals by the JRC. The JRC further completes proposals on copper, paper and glass end-of-waste criteria.

Further end-of-waste studies in the pipeline

Following the first set of end-of-waste proposals, the JRC starts work on end-of-waste criteria for biodegradable waste and plastics. It also launches preparatory studies for waste derived fuels and aggregates.

Improving materials resource management

The JRC is exploring additional possibilities for optimising waste prevention, reuse and recycling, with special emphasis on critical materials.