Leading waste and resource managers across Europe say the ambitions of the EU’s Circular Economy strategy will only be achieved with viable end-markets for recovered materials.
Jean-Marc Boursier, president of FEAD, the European federation representing the private waste and resource management industry across Europe, says success depends on many external factors.
‘Recycling is not something that exists because we say it does. Recycling exists because there is a market that collects material to be recycled and reincorporated into new products: the private waste management market.’
Boursier, who is also the senior executive vice-president at SUEZ responsible for the group’s recycling and recovery activities in northern Europe, was speaking after a FEAD workshop attended by policy makers, stakeholders and representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee.
He believes the CE goals are achievable but only if the market for recycled materials takes off and, for that to happen, four conditions had to be fulfilled:
- Create a ‘shock’ demand for recycled materials to give private waste management investors the visibility and certainty they require.
- Public authorities, at national and local level, need strong tools to ensure successful separate collections.
- Effective labelling to inform consumers about recyclability and the amount of mandatory recycled content in a product.
- Products containing recycled materials more cost-effective than those based on virgin materials.
Virgin versus recycled
Boursier went on: ‘One of the reasons for uncertain and weak demand is the price gap on the commodities market. The market favours virgin materials which are less costly but have a high environmental cost over recycled materials which are more expensive but are better for the environment.
‘The Circular Economy needs positive incentives, not penalties nor additional environmental taxes. To close the loop, we need an effective and affordable solution for the whole recycling chain as well as for the residue from recycling and for non-recyclable waste. Treating residual waste is part of the chain, and waste-to-energy has an important role to play when it comes to residue recovery.’
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