Recycling is more than the collection of recyclable waste materials. It is the result of a series of steps which are part of the recycling value chain: collection - pre-processing (including when appropriate dismantling) – processing (including extraction of contained material from recyclable waste) into a new product/material.
Europe has come a long way to improve its recycling rates and has thereby reduced landfilling of waste. More recycling can be achieved provided the appropriate framework conditions are in place.
But European Industries using secondary raw materials face important challenges. The obstacles to producing a higher share of paper, plastic, man-made fibre, non-ferrous metals products from secondary raw materials are the following:
• Insufficient and contradictory policy support for closing the loops.
• Subsidies for the use of recyclable and renewable material for energy recovery.
• Insufficient recyclability requirements for converted products.
• Suboptimal end-of-life collection schemes.
• Shortage of secondary raw material due to exports to non-European countries partly due to illegal shipments of waste.
• Lack of level playing field worldwide.
• Technological hurdles to recycle increasingly complex products.
• Landfilling of recyclable waste.
• Inconsistencies in legislation in the field of waste, products and materials.
The challenges for the different sectors are multiple; one of them however is a threat to the entire European Recycling Industry: the massive exports of secondary raw materials outside the EU. Secondary raw materials exported outside the EU represent not only a loss of the material (often poor efficiency of the recovery process) but also a loss of the embedded energy. Additionally, exports of wastes and secondary raw materials may lead to a higher environmental burden in a global perspective. The significant exports of European secondary raw materials are facilitated by:
• a strong demand for resources from emerging markets.
• relatively cheap east bound shipping costs.
• substandard environmental management of recycling processes outside Europe.
• insufficient control at borders.
• lack of quality of the collected material.
In the undersigning sectors’ view, excessive exports of secondary raw materials are in opposition to the European Union’s objective of a resource efficient Europe.

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