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New EU Czech presidency highlights economic issues for recycling

A paper examining the effects of the economic downturn of 2008 on the recycling industry will be discussed at next weeks EU Environment Council meeting in Brussels. The paper entitled The fall in demand for recycled materials - Information from the Presidency, which recognises the importance of this issue, is from the new Czech presidency of the European Union.

The paper said: Due to the drop in demand, there is a global surplus of waste collected for recycling. This has mainly affected countries with poorly developed separate collection schemes, which are producing badly sorted materials for recycling, and those countries that rely on recycling outside of the EU.

The oversupply of materials to be recycled leads to a need for temporary - or medium-term storage of waste, or for incineration. There is also growing concern that it may result in increased landfilling.

Furthermore, industry is reporting cash shortages with banks reluctant to finance operating costs. There are indications that the companies facing difficulties are primarily those that relied on the peak price levels prior to the downturn.

The paper also acknowledges that public trust in recycling must be maintained as well as recognising that situations differ between member states. It said the capacity and demand for high quality materials was still there.

But the paper said that developing reprocessing capacity without a commensurate increase in manufacturing capacity and the demand for the goods would not solve the problem. It would merely move it up the recycling chain.

The paper recommended that capacity be developed hand-in-hand with end markets and it identified one barrier to this as the availability of capital investment. Other barriers included administrative burden from the current waste shipments regulations and REACH, as well as proposals to revise the IPPC Directive.

Possible actions to be discussed by the Environment Council include:
* Developing new recycling targets based on detailed analysis
* Public statements to aid public confidence in recycling
* A focus on waste prevention and minimisation
* An analysis of barriers to recycling
* Accelerating work on the end-of-waste criteria
* Improving material quality through sorting and collection methods
* Accelerate the inclusion of recyclability criteria in future Eco-Design Directives
* Financial incentives at national level
* VAT reductions
* Green public procurement
* Private procurement
* Acceleration of the Lead Markets Initiative on recycling

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