The contribution of recyclers to job creation and sustainable growth

The conference-debate of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC) “Towards an EU Circular Economy”, chaired by Mr Karl-Heinz Florenz, Member of the European Parliament, and hosted by the European Economic & Social Committee (EESC) provided a timely opportunity for all stakeholders to highlight the importance of an ambitious new circular economy package.

On behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee, Mr. Martin Siecker, the president of the Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption, recalled the importance of the Committee as an effective tool to involve the civil society in the European decision-making process. He welcomed the initiative of the meeting, by stressing the need to step up resource efficiency policies in the new European Commission plan. The chair of the meeting MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz emphasized the importance of using sustainably resources for current and future European generations. He positively noted the cooperation between the different directorates of the European Commission, especially between DG ENV and DG GROW, and said that his is a good signal in view of the new Commission’s proposal on Circular Economy that will be presented towards the end of 2015. He also focused on the importance of implementing existing directives, which in his view has not been done sufficiently so far. He emphasized that growth needs to be decoupled from raw materials use, and that reuse and recycling play an important role. He finally highlighted that a different mentality as well as new business models are needed to ensure that the usage of materials is reduced and recycling improved. A collaborative approach was called upon and it was emphasised that time is of the essence.

Mr. Carlo Pettinelli, Director “Sustainable growth and EU 2020”, DG Internal Market & Industry Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW), European Commission, explained that the Commission withdrew the package because a wider framework is needed, which looks at the issues at hand before waste is produced. An action plan that takes a holistic approach and takes into account the conditions of all Member States will be established. The new proposal will examine various incentives and market based instruments to promote the transition and boost investment. At this stage the Commission is trying to find the right level of ambition and ensure that it is aligned with the growth and jobs agenda to create new business opportunities. It was emphasised that waste should not be thought of as just waste, but as a forgotten value that needs to be utilised. Further, the Commission urged to work in collaboration with Member States, the local level and industry to ensure that a biggest impact is made.

Mr. Karl Falkenberg, Director General of DG Environment, European Commission, stated that a more ambitious proposal entails focusing on a list of achievable targets that are aligned with the jobs and growth agenda. It was emphasised that we must move away from the notion of waste and understand that it is a secondary material that can be used as prime materials. It is important that materials avoid landfills altogether to create economic activity and jobs. Furthermore, in order to become more resource efficient fewer materials and products must be used by dematerialising products and ensuring that they have better durability and ability to be repaired. Another important component is implementing separate waste streams as they ensure that materials collected can compete with prime materials. Implementation in Member States is key and must effectively ensure that waste becomes a resource. The new proposal is expected for early autumn and the Commission is in the process of ensuring that the framework translates into a more ambitious agenda in relation to the varied realities of many Member States.

Mr. Dominique Maguin, President of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation, presented the creation of the Confederation, bringing together three existing recycling associations, active in the recycling of ferrous (EFR), non-ferrous (EUROMETREC) and paper (ERPA). He stressed that through its Membership from 18 EU & EFTA countries, EuRIC represents an average of 5,500 companies, including, beside large undertakings, a vast number of SMEs, employing 300,000 local jobs, and recycling an average of 150 million tons of a variety material streams every year, for an aggregated annual turnover of about 95 billion euros. He stressed that jobs provided by the recycling industry are local by nature as recyclables are treated close to the source of collection and thus cannot be outsourced. He also emphasized the importance of strengthening the implementation of the waste hierarchy as well as the need to create a genuine EU-recycling market which incentivises the demand for recycled materials as, today, for many resource streams, more waste is recycled in Europe than the European demand for secondary raw materials. He concluded by stating that EuRIC is a natural supporter of a circular economy and is looking forward to work with the European institutions for an ambitious new package.

The discussion with the audience touched upon the issues of the need of incentives for secondary raw materials which compete on prices with primary raw materials, the difficulties of defining the ownership of waste, product design and ensuring that the tools necessary to repair products are made available. Further comments concerned the issues of the concept of “end of waste”, standardisation and the role of lobbyists in European decision-making process.


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