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Recycling offers 'win-win' opportunity for EU

Recycling can make a substantial contribution to the key challenges facing the European Union, according to a new report.

The European Environment Agency (EEA), an EU body, says recycling offers a triple “win-win-win” opportunity in helping member states reduce environmental burdens, create new jobs and boost resources in their economies.

Its report, Earnings, jobs and innovation: the role of recycling in a green economy, notes that EU recycling initiatives were largely driven by environmental considerations but they have also offered “important economic and social benefits”.

“Recycling has an essential role to play in achieving a major European and global policy priority: the shift to a green economy that generates prosperity while maintaining a healthy environment and social equity for current and future generations”.

It notes that from 2004 to 2008 the turnover of seven main categories of recyclables increased by almost 100 %. Turnover declined sharply at the end of 2008 but had since recovered. The number of people employed in recycling activities continues to grow. However, there is no reference to the current financial problems of the Eurozone market.

The EEA suggests “decision-makers have clear opportunities to enhance recycling in the EU and thereby help create a green economy in Europe”.

It says this can be achieved by

  • supporting demand for recyclables in industry within and outside the EU
  • ensuring that recyclable material is separated from waste for disposal and the quality of recyclables is improved because this increases the value of the recyclable waste material
  • improving product design to facilitate material separation, including discouraging the use of composite materials that make recycling difficult
  • integrating the recycling of rare and precious metals into the existing recycling infrastructure, developing new recycling technologies and stimulating research on substitutes for these metals
  • phasing out landfill for recyclable materials
  • building up recycling infrastructure and markets where they do not exist

The report says the development of recycling over the last decade is an example of market forces and legislative demands working together to produce positive results.

“This integrated approach should be further strengthened within an EU sustainable raw material management strategy,” it adds.

What is the European Environment Agency?

The EEA is an agency of the European Union based in Copenhagen tasked with helping the European community make informed decisions about improving the environment, integrating environmental considerations into economic policies and moving towards sustainability. Currently, the EEA has 32 member countries. The regulation establishing the EEA was adopted by the EU in 1990 and it came into force in late 1993. Main clients are the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council and member countries. It also serves other EU institutions such as the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

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