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Resource efficiency highlighted in EU raw materials plan

A plan to ensure a sustainable supply of raw materials to the European economy, including resource efficiency actions, has been released by the European Commission (EC).

The High Level Steering Group of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Raw Materials revealed its Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) to make the EU a world leader in all aspects of raw material operations by 2020.

The SIP lists actions to improve Europe’s waste management framework conditions. Action areas include:

  • Product design for optimised use of (critical) raw materials and increased quality of recycling
  • Optimised waste flows for increased recycling
  • Prevention of illegal shipments of waste
  • Optimised material recovery

The plan has a specific focus on waste flows, with a particular emphasis on better recovery and recycling of construction and demolition waste.

The plan document states: “Recycling is another key way for reducing European demand for non-EU raw materials. There is potential to extract sizeable quantities of raw materials from end-of-life industrial and consumer goods in Europe such as the rare earths found in computers, platinum found in car exhausts or wood contained in furniture.”

The plan also points out weaknesses in the EU waste legislation recycling targets. It says these are weight-based and provide no incentive to recycle critical materials present in small amounts. Therefore, in Europe some scrap metals and minerals end up in slag, road construction or waste deposits, while wood still ends up in landfill or is incinerated or discarded instead of being reused.

European Commission vice-president Antonio Tajani, leader of the steering group, said: “Innovation in raw materials – be it in mining, processing, recycling, or substitution – holds the key to future growth and jobs. With today’s proposal we underline that Europe is capable of addressing these important challenges.”

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