Circular economy

Circular Economy Package misses opportunity to stimulate recycling markets

National recycling and waste management company, SUEZ, has today welcomed the publication of the Circular Economy Package by the European Commission, but warned that further work needs to be done to stimulate European markets for recycled materials.

In response to the launch of the policy package, which took place in Brussels at approximately 11am GMT today (2nd December 2015), Chief Executive Officer of SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, David Palmer-Jones, said that SUEZ broadly welcomed its contents, but that failing to recognise the need to stimulate markets for recycled materials in the proposals was a “missed opportunity”.

David Palmer-Jones is also President of FEAD, the body which represents the interests of the recycling and waste management sector across Europe.

This year in particular, the recycling sector has seen significant fluctuation in prices for recycled materials, as they struggle to compete amid a back-drop of low oil prices and consequently more competitive virgin materials.

Many within the sector had hoped that the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package would include policies to stimulate recycling markets by creating domestic demand for recycled materials – for example requiring manufacturers to use a minimum recycled content for certain products – however, the proposals released today do not go that far.

Commenting on the proposals, David Palmer-Jones said: “I welcome the publication of the Circular Economy Package proposals today, which give our sector, and policy-makers, some certainty in respect of targets for landfill diversion and recycling beyond 2020 – which is essential for the crucial investment decisions that need to be taken today and in the near future.

“It is also heartening to see the inclusion of the eco-design working plan for 2015-2017, which will help by setting requirements on durability, reparability and recyclability of products and standardisation of material efficiency – demonstrating that the Commission is looking not just at our sector, but the whole chain.

“However, I do feel that the Commission has not recognised that market forces and supply side measures alone will not deliver a circular economy and that the omission of robust policies to create a flourishing market for recycled materials is a missed opportunity.

“The current markets are unstable and disincentivise secondary raw material production and uptake by Europe’s industry, yet the commission’s proposals imply that market mechanisms alone will achieve a resilient market for secondary raw materials, which is something we are just not seeing.

“In my view, the package could have, and should have, contained stronger regulatory ‘pull’ measures to create demand for secondary raw materials. Without this, we could quickly find that the collecting and sorting of these materials becomes uneconomic.

“While secondary materials are in direct competition with lower-price virgin materials, we will not deliver a more circular economy in Europe, even when overall demand for raw material is strong, unless the environmental cost of using primary raw materials is better reflected in their price.

“That said, there is a lot within the proposals to applaud and I look forward to continuing to work with the commission in both my role as CEO of SUEZ and as President of FEAD, to develop this package further.”