Europe’s recycling industries expressed dismay at the European Parliament’s adoption of current waste shipment proposals citing major inconsistencies undermining the trade of recycled materials. While the establishment of mandatory recycled content targets for plastics should be applauded1, the failure to consider targets for metals and paper is a significant omission that will erode demand and, subsequently green investment in new and upscaled recycling facilities in Europe.
However, European recyclers were encouraged by the European Parliament’s support of existing proposals that facilitate the export of recycled materials within the EU, such as establishing English as the common language or extended time limits for receiving shipments. Nevertheless, the lack of harmonised end-of-waste criteria and rules that allow Member States to reject shipments will continue to impede a functioning single market for recycled materials in Europe.
Moreover, the Parliament has regrettably reinforced a one-size-fits-all approach to export restrictions. This means that the same restrictions apply to low-quality mixed plastic waste as for high-value raw materials from recycling for which access to European and international markets is essential to preserve the competitiveness of the European recycling industry. By failing to make this distinction, up to 80% of metals and paper recyclers expect losses in turnover, and up to 50% expect job losses.
“Recycled materials already struggle to compete with extracted raw materials. If current waste shipment proposals are adopted, this will be yet another major setback for Europe’s recycling industries and our climate ambitions,” noted Emmanuel Katrakis, Secretary General of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC). “If the EU wants a vibrant recycling industry that leads the circular economy transition and reinvests in Europe, it must establish rules that accelerate rather than impede demand for recycled materials. Member States must now act swiftly to address our concerns or risk unprecedented levels of incineration and massive stockpiling of valuable resources in landfill,” he added.