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Chemical analysis of input materials is ‘killing’ businesses

Belgium – The recycling industry is confronted with an ever growing pile of paperwork ‘€“ on one hand detailing how to strengthen the circular economy all while striving for non-toxic policies. Politicians would be wise to keep complicated laws at a minimum so as not to hinder recycling businesses, leading recyclers declared at the annual conference of the European Recycling Industries’€™ Confederation (EuRIC).

Chris Slijkhuis of Austria-based electronics and car recycler Müller- Guttenbrunn made a strong plea for a ‘better interface’ between EU waste and chemical legislation which forms a major stumbling block industry parties heavily invested in plastics recycling.

Recyclers are ‘frustrated’ from still having to deal with highly complex legislative framework, especially regarding the recycling of complex plastics, Slijkhuis told delegates in Brussels.

Measuring 26 000 loads

The entrepreneur warned his fellow stakeholders of the consequence of chemical analysis on input materials that would not make any practical nor economic sense. ‘Imagine day to day practice at our Amstetten e-scrap and ELV facility with 26 000 incoming loads from 2100 suppliers and 120 waste codes.

To analyse all incoming streams on hazardous substances would be a hell of a job. In other words: it is unworkable.’ Unsurprisingly, Slijkhuis as many of his fellow recyclers gathered in Brussels suggested no analyses for input material into recycling processes until the end of the recycling process is reached.

‘This kind of analyses are not used for mined materials, so please do not apply them for urban mined materials’, he argued. And the same applies for flame retardants, he believes. Analysing the type of retardant used costs some Euro 1000 per analysis.

‘Given that in our processes we already separate the plastics from the flame retardants, analysing makes no sense.’

How to calculate the rates?

Recyclers speaking at the conference also emphasised the need for a harmonised calculation method for measuring genuine recycling rates at European level at the output of sorting facilities.

Measuring recycling targets at the input of production processes runs against the objective of accurate and uniform statistics across the EU, EuRIC insisted recently in the wake of the European Parliament’s adoption of draft legislation on municipal waste. According to Gary Crawford, vice president International Affairs at Veolia, more incentives are crucial to help boost plastics recycling and close the cost gap between virgin and recycled materials.

His plea for economic incentives was strongly echoed by Graeme Carus, business development director at metals recycling major EMR, who described the current lack of measures to pull demand for recycled materials as ‘the missing link’ of Europe’s circular economy package.

Businesses ‘at risk’

EuRIC’s president Michael Schuy of Schuy Recycling, believes ‘unhampered’ competition is the key enabler for thousands of companies throughout Europe to provide an unmatched infrastructure network of recycling facilities equipped to turn all types of waste into new raw materials.

‘Competition distortions from publicly-owned waste management entities place a number of recycling businesses at risk’, he stressed. Some 200 participants were gathered at EuRIC’s second annual conference.

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