Politicians take measures to turn the circular Economy into a sustainable reality

Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President of the European Commission thanked EURITS at its former Conference for its vital contribution to a safe and resource-efficient waste management within the European Union. Indaver, as founder and member of the Executive Committee, was acknowledged in being both an important gatekeeper of the circular economy and enabling it by investing in molecular recycling solutions and industrial symbiosis . Katainen stated: “When making the circular economy a reality we need to create an efficient market for secondary raw materials. However, it will never happen if we are not successful in guaranteeing safety of the re-used materials”.

Far more than just thermal treatment

EURITS, the European Union for the Responsible Incineration and Treatment of Special Waste, represents more than 90% of the specialist waste incineration industry in the European Union. It ensures safe, lawful and environmentally sound waste incineration by exchanging technical and operational information to the most important European institutions to encourage good practice. Indaver uses this platform together with the other members to communicate their vision and to share best practices or raise issues relevant to developments in waste treatment and legislation. Recovery of waste; efficient energy use and safe decontamination are the challenges we face today in our recycling society. By creating awareness among politicians and the public of the need for safe treatment of hazardous waste in specialist facilities which operate to the highest standards of environmental sustainability, they safeguard the circular economy. Katainen congratulated the special waste industry and EURITS because they share their expertise and issues in order to safely remove all hazardous components from the material/food chain.

Urge for decontaminated recycling & traceability recognized in revised WFD

The Vice-President of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen, stated that EURITS significantly contributed to turning the circular economy a sustainable reality. Thanks to the input and knowledge sharing of EURITS, the revised Waste Framework Directive (WFD) will considerably strengthen the best practices in hazardous waste management. Also traceability provisions will contribute to improved and high-end recovery of materials. Katainen explicitly acknowledged the urge to strengthen the separation obligation and inclusion of specific decontamination for recovery operations. Furthermore the VP recognized the need to secure hazardous waste management and to do that by better record keeping through electronic register for better traceability.

How to safely recycle high value materials within the economy?

As much as 70% of chemical products are classified as hazardous. These substances play an important role in the economy and provide numerous critical functions for society, provided the chemicals safety legislation and risk management are applied appropriately. Legislation says that: "Materials should be safe, fit-for-purpose and designed for durability, recyclability and low environmental impact”. However, the European Commission recognises that for recovered materials containing ‘legacy substances’ decisions must be made on whether to recover materials containing some amount of hazardous substances, for further use, or to destroy them. It is the responsibility of the hazardous waste management industry to strike the right balance between recovery and final disposal of materials that become waste. They have the right tools and technologies to remove substances of concern from waste and, if this is not possible, to destroy these materials, obtaining energy during the process.

Decision-making methodology to support the waste industry

Today however, the recycling society is faced with some challenges. There is no specific framework to deal with the presence of substances of concern in recycled materials and in articles made from them. There is no agreed methodology to determine the overall costs and benefits for society that also takes into account the recovery of materials and energy or the prevention of primary resources being used. This is why the Commission has launched a project to develop a methodology to support and facilitate decision-making about when it is best to recycle and when it is best to destroy materials containing substances of concern. The outcome is expected by the second quarter of 2019.

Waste industry: the gatekeeper of the circular economy

The hazardous waste management sector is already contributing to the efforts towards circularity by developing recovery technologies for substances such as solvents or used lubricating oils or by developing decontamination technologies for certain substances in plastics.

Sometimes however, decontamination of waste is not technically viable and the destruction of the waste offers the best environmental outcome. In these circumstances, capacity of waste-to-energy installations throughout Europe should mirror the needs in terms of both nominal capacity and technological performance to ensure destruction of the substances of concern. It is important to ensure that the incineration technologies are themselves environmentally sound.

This places a special responsibility on the entire sector and its performance will determine whether the circular economy will become a success story in Europe.

 

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