10 June 2020

ECOS will contribute to the European strategy for a better re-use of critical raw materials

Proper waste management is one of the main challenges we face in the quest for a real circular economy – especially when it comes to re-using Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), essential to modern technology and clean energy devices. CRMs re-use is challenging as they are often used in low quantities and concentrations, making their recovery from end-of-life products technically and economically difficult.

The European Green Deal highlights the need of ensuring the supply of sustainable CRMs, including the diversification of supply from secondary sources. This is why the European Commission wants to explore strategies to recover precious resources such as CRMs and improve their re-use, as planned in the 2015 and 2020 Circular Economy Action Plans.

As a preliminary step, the European Commission plans to launch a mapping of the existing standards and other standardisation documents on the management and treatment of waste containing significant amounts of CRMs by the end of 2020. This mapping will include many aspects regarding the production of so-called “secondary critical raw materials” – materials that can be recycled and injected back into the economy as new raw materials, thus increasing product circularity while achieving greater security of supply.

The European Commission’s mapping will focus on the sectors and CRMs where greater material efficiency improvements in terms of recycling and preparation for re-use could be achieved, such as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (known as WEEE), waste batteries, end-of-life vehicles, waste windmills and solar PV. It will also target non-critical materials such as lithium, manganese, and nickel.

To do this mapping, the European Commission plans asking for input from experts in the industries concerned, as well as NGOs, including ECOS. It will also consider relevant Horizon 2020 projects, such as CEWASTE (“Voluntary Certification Scheme for the Waste Treatment”), of which ECOS is a partner. CEWASTE input is ready: it lists the relevant normative references, management requirements for operators involved in the collection, pre-treatment and final treatment of WEEE and waste batteries, as well as the requirements that key CRM equipment and key CRM components should follow.

The mapping is expected to be ready by early 2022. It should support the implementation of Circular Economy actions as regards the material-efficient management and treatment of these waste streams. This activity can be considered a preparatory action towards mandating possible standardisation work on the management and treatment of waste containing significant amounts of these CRMs.

 

ECOS is co-funded by the European Commission and EFTA

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