There is significant potential to double recycling across Europe for municipal, construction and electronic waste according to a European Environment Agency briefing.
According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), increased recycling rates are being hindered due to economic, technical and regulatory barriers in Europe.
“Compared to current recycled amounts, this potential can double recycling for municipal and electronic waste and increase it by 30 per cent for construction and demolition waste,” the Agency said in a statement.
Low market prices for virgin resources, recycling capacity and the complexity of certain products are holding up increased recycling rates, as stated in the EEA briefing ‘The case for increased recycling: estimating the potential for recycling in Europe’.
The briefing, released on June 18, noted that the full implementation of measures supporting the recycling targets set under European Union legislation will help.
Additionally, implementing new policy measures, some of which are included in the EU’s 2020 circular economy action plan can also help increase recycling of waste materials.
Existing targets in EU legislation already set a high standard, as they aim to harness much of the currently untapped recycling potential.
However, to fully exploit this potential, EEA said in its briefing that current barriers need to be overcome, e.g. price competition from virgin resource alternatives, infrastructure capacity and the complexity of certain waste products.
“The most important barrier to increasing recycling of these waste streams is the low market price of natural resources/virgin raw materials,” the Agency stated.
“Next is the mixed and complex composition of some waste products, which makes the recovery and reuse of materials from waste challenging.”
The EEA said that regulations requiring more frequent and higher quality separate collections, extended producer responsibility schemes and selective demolition practices can effectively exploit the potential for further increasing recycling.
“Such initiatives should be coupled with measures to improve the economics of recycling, remove hazardous substances from products and apply design-for-recycling concepts,” EEA stated.
On June 23 the EEA stated that recycled amounts from municipal, construction and electronic waste have increased over past years.
According to the agency, landmark EU directives, such as the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, have fuelled the increase.
“These laws follow principles designed to achieve a gradual, but steady, increase in the level of recycling of a waste stream compared with the amount generated,” EEA said.
“For example, the existing municipal waste recycling target for 2035 aims to exploit much of the waste stream’s recycling potential,
“In addition, the new circular economy policy framework also calls for keeping materials in the economy for as long as possible and their value as high as possible.”