Aluminium crucial to circular economy in Europe
The European Commission’s proposal to progressively phase out landfilling waste is an important step towards a resource efficient economy and best in class collection, sorting and separation technologies.
Despite this, the Commission fell short of completely banning landfills, still agreeing to accept a maximum of 10%. Now is an important time to build on momentum to secure Europe’s status as a leader in recycling and driver of sustainable growth in the global marketplace.
Commenting on the proposal, the European aluminium director-general, Gerd Götz, said: “To build a European circular economy, we have to think global. Every year, about one million tonnes of aluminium scrap leave Europe to be recycled in other parts of the world. This is an economic waste that makes us reliant on imports and could be avoided through greater investment in collection and sorting infrastructure. Exporting scrap is also exporting energy embedded in the metal. Recycling these one million tonnes of aluminium scrap in Europe would be equivalent to saving the annual energy consumption of countries such as Latvia or Luxembourg.
“It is disappointing that recyclable waste still ends up in landfills in Europe. Recyclable materials such as aluminium must stay in the loop. Landfilling clearly belongs to the linear economy. It should be phased out and replaced with efficient collection and sorting systems as soon as possible.”
The commission could have been more ambitious for the target on Construction & Demolition Waste (CDW), for which the present 70% encompasses all material recovery options, including backfilling. With less than 10% of all CDW being recycled today, specific reuse and recycling target for this waste stream would boost the overall progress towards a circular economy.
Over 90% of aluminium is recycled in the construction and automotive sectors and 60% in packaging, making Europe the world leader in aluminium recycling. It can be recycled repeatedly without any loss of quality and is already a key contributor to the circular economy. European remelting and refining companies have the capacity to recycle even more aluminium scrap in the EU, if collection processes were improved and unnecessary exports reduced.
“We want Europe to stay the world leader in aluminium recycling. The aluminium industry can strengthen Europe’s circular economy and has the capacity to recycle even more. However, waste markets are global and we are facing unfair competition for aluminium scrap. The EU has a responsibility to ensure that when aluminium scrap is exported to facilities outside Europe, these facilities apply equivalent health, safety and environmental standards as in Europe,” concluded Götz.