The Council of the European Union must show commitment towards measuring ‘real recycling’ instead of relying on high targets that may be met through ill-defined means, says the European Steel Association (EUROFER).

Commenting on the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, which has been voted through by the EP, EUROFER’s director-general Axel Eggert said that the European Parliament had come up with a reasonable report offering ‘ambitious and practical improvements’ but argued that the European Council needs to remain open-minded about the calculation method at the final recycling stage.

According to EUROFER, the revised directive lays the foundation for recognition of industrial co-products as ‘by-products’ and this empowers the European Commission to ‘initiate a harmonised application of the by-products principles’.

This might result in a functioning EU market for the use of by-products as manufactured raw materials, replacing virgin raw materials. The European Parliament’s hierarchical approach, claims EUROFER, means that member states can establish their own national criteria for this on a case-by-case basis whenever the EU is unable to establish criteria.

By-products from steel production include slags, which serve as feedstock for fertiliser production and as aggregates used in road construction.

Eggert argues that the issue of real recycling is not fully settled. “The council ought to take note of the [European] Parliament’s intentions and ensure that this is done in the trilogues,” he added, explaining how MEPs have established a specific calculation point where waste materials enter the final recycling process.

“They [MEPs] requested traceability along the recycling value chain in the member states,” he said, stressing that while he appreciated that such a change cannot take place overnight, it was the only way of ensuring that real recycling takes place as intended – rather than meeting targets through ‘ill-defined methods’.

EUROFER believes that to further improve the Parliament text, recycling should be calculated at the stage at which the sorted waste is actually processed into new products, rather than as specified now where losses may still occur after final sorting but before reprocessing.

“Overall, the EP report does advance the Circular Economy. However, the Council must now step up so that ‘real’ recycling can eventually take place and the recovery and reuse of manufactured raw materials is incentivised in Europe,” Eggert concluded.