Waste generated by European industries and consumers is increasingly being reprocessed into secondary raw materials and new products instead of being buried in landfills. However, in the past there has been a lack of clear criteria determining when a material recovered from waste ceases to be waste and can be dealt with as other products or raw materials. The first EU end-of-waste Regulation just adopted sets such criteria for iron and steel scrap and for aluminium scrap. It aims to stimulate European recycling markets.
An important aim of end-of-waste rules is to stimulate recycling markets in the EU. This will create legal certainty and a level playing field for the recycling industry, remove unnecessary administrative burdens from the recycling sector by releasing safe and clean secondary raw materials from the scope of waste legislation, and contribute to the raw materials supply of European industries.
The lack of clear and harmonised criteria in the past resulted in a situation where some Member States developed different and not always compatible frameworks for regulating recovered materials.
The new Regulation means clean and safe metal scrap does not have to be classified as waste provided producers apply a quality management system and demonstrate compliance with the criteria by a statement of conformity for each metal scrap consignment.
Any kind of treatment, like cutting, shredding, cleaning and de-pollution needed to prepare the scrap for the final use in steel or aluminium works or foundries has to be completed before the metal scrap can be released from waste status. For example, old cars have to be dismantled, fluids and hazardous compounds removed and the metal fraction treated in order to recover clean metal scrap which meets the end-of-waste criteria.
The establishment of ‘end-of-waste’ criteria was introduced by the new Waste Framework Directive which aims to achieve much higher levels of recycling and minimise the extraction of additional natural resources. The long-term goal is to turn Europe into a recycling society: one which avoids waste and uses unavoidable waste as a resource wherever possible.
The Waste Framework Directive builds on established principles of environmentally safe waste management, laying down a five-step waste hierarchy which promotes prevention, preparation for re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery. Waste disposal such as landfill, still the most common form of municipal waste disposal in the majority of Member States, should only be considered as the last resort. EU waste policy aims to move waste management up the waste hierarchy and introduces the concept of life cycle thinking to ensure that any action has an overall benefit compared to other options.
The Regulation will enter into force after its publication and will be directly applicable in all Member States after a transition period of 6 months. The Commission is currently preparing criteria for other material streams which are particularly important for EU recycling markets, such as copper, paper, glass and compost.