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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Total recycled quantities for six key material types in the EU27 including exports for recycling (11.1)

Total recycled quantities for six key material types in the EU27 including exports for recycling (11.1)

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Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments

Justification for indicator selection

This particular question and indicator are part of an over-arching framework of questions and set of indicators that were developed to measure Europe’s progress towards Sustainable Consumption and Production. More information on the framework of questions and the indicator set are available at […].

This question concerns the reuse and recycling of end-of-life products to reduce, as far as possible, the demand for virgin materials. The term ‘closed loop’ refers to an ideal situation where materials from waste products are returned directly to the production chain of equivalent products.

The indicator is of relevance to the question since it investigates whether material recovery of some key material streams is on the increase and thus whether or not materials are increasingly being returned back into the economy. As such it also gives an indication of whether drivers are acting towards a reduction in the demand for virgin materials.

However, a reduced demand for virgin materials demands that the growth in material recovery outstrips any growth in demand for materials for production of new goods. This indicator does not consider this latter driver. This is considered by Indicator SCP042.

Scientific references:

  • Waste without borders in the EU? Transboundary shipments of waste EEA Report No 1/2009 This report presents data on waste shipments within Europe and out of Europe (mainly EU countries are covered) for both so called notified waste (mostly hazardous and problematic waste) as well as for non-hazardous waste. It presents drivers for shipments but also gaps that still exist in our knowledge as regards some waste streams (such as e-waste) or what influence shipments have on the environment. It also presents some illegal shipments issues. A main conclusion is that more detailed reporting on waste shipments to the EU Commission would enable us to obtain a better understanding of shipments and their nature.

Indicator definition

This indicator shows developments in quantities of six material waste types that are recycled by recycling plants within EU territory plus quantities of EU generated waste for the same six material types that are recycled both within the EU and in the rest of the world. It also illustrates the difference between the two variables – net exports of waste from the EU to the rest of the world – also differentiated by material type

The six key waste material types are:

  • Metallic wastes;
  • Glass wastes;
  • Paper and cardboard wastes;
  • Plastic wastes;
  • Wood wastes; and
  • Textile wastes.

Data has been reported to Eurostat by member countries.

Units

The indicator is expressed in million tonnes of recycled waste in both figures.

Policy context and targets

Context description

This question concerns the reuse and recycling of end-of-life products to reduce, as far as possible, the demand for virgin materials. The term ‘closed loop’ refers to an ideal situation where materials from waste products are returned directly to the production chain of equivalent products, instead of to a lower grade product (i.e. construction waste from buildings is used for the construction of new buildings).

Reuse and recycling are identified as an objective within the Sustainable Consumption and Production theme of the renewed EU’s Sustainable Development Strategy (2006) aimed at ‘avoiding the generation of waste and enhancing efficient use of natural resources by applying the concept of life-cycle thinking and promoting reuse and recycling’ under a broader objective to ‘avoid overexploitation of natural resources’.

One of the objectives of the 6th Environmental Action Programme (Article 8) is to ‘encourage re-use ….preference should be given to recovery and especially to recycling’.

The long term goal of the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste is for ‘a recycling society that seeks to avoid waste and uses waste as a resource’. Reuse and recycling are the second most preferred waste management options after waste prevention in the waste hierarchy given in Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD). The 2008 WFD sets new targets for Member States for the reuse and recycling of paper, metals, plastic and glass from households and similar origins, and for construction and demolition waste (Article 11). Closed-loop recycling is not mentioned specifically in waste policy at the EU level. However, end-of-waste criteria required under Article 6 of the WFD are developed in part to improve the quality of end-of-life materials to optimise their potential for utilisation in production of new products and thus support a shift towards a closed-loop economy.

The Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe (2011) contains a section on Turning Waste into a Resource. This puts focus on raising the priority to reuse and recycling and developing a combination of policies that help create a full recycling economy. These policies include product design integrating a life cycle approach, better cooperation among market actors along the value chain, better collection processes, and appropriate regulatory framework and incentives for waste recycling. 

Targets

EU’s SD Strategy aimed at ‘avoiding the generation of waste and enhancing efficient use of natural resources by applying the concept of life-cycle thinking and promoting reuse and recycling

Relevant Waste Framework Directive (WFD) targets include:

  • By 2015, all Member States to have implemented separate collection for minimum of paper, metal, plastic and glass
  • By 2020, Member States to reach Article 29 recycling targets of 50% by weight of household waste (including paper, plastic, metal and glass) and 70% by weight of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste

The Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe contains the milestone that by 2020 ‘recycling and reuse of waste are economically attractive options for public and private actors due to widespread separate collection and the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials.  More materials including materials having a significant impact on the environment and critical raw materials are recycled…. Energy recovery is limited to non-recyclable materials, landfilling is virtually eliminated and high quality recycling is ensured.’

Related policy documents

  • 10917/06
    Review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy (EU SDS): Renewed Strategy, by the Council of the European Union, No. 10917/06.
  • 1600/2002/EC
    Decision no 1600/2002/ec of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 july 2002 laying down the sixth community environment action programme
  • COM(2011) 571 Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe
    COM(2011) 571  Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe
  • Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste (COM(2005) 666)
    COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THHE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS Taking sustainable use of resources forward: A Thematic Strategy on the preventionand recycling of waste
  • Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)
    Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (Text with EEA relevance)

Key policy question

11. Is Europe moving towards a closed loop society?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Figure 1: In order to construct this graph two elements have to be combined, data for recycling quantities in the EU27 along with data for the trade of wastes for recycling between EU-27 and the rest of the world. The reported quantities of recycled materials for the EU include imports of waste from outside the EU for recycling but exclude waste generated in the EU and exported for recycling. Therefore in order to calculate the total quantities of waste generated in EU which are recycled globally (i.e. both in EU and abroad) the total reported quantities of waste need to be supplemented by data on net exports of wastes for recycling. All materials exported and imported in the EU27 were drawn from Eurostat’s Comext database under the CN8 codes for waste and scrap for the 6 material categories investigated for this indicator. Imports are subtracted from exports to give net exports. The net exports are then added (but identified separately) to the total quantities of the 6 selected materials recycled within EU27, in order to produce the final graph.  

Figure 2: The reported amounts of exports and imports of the 6 selected materials were retrieved from Eurostat’s Comext database under the CN8 codes for waste and scrap for the 6 material categories investigated for this indicator. It is important to note that the values represent only the external trade of EU27 countries with the rest of the world (and not between EU27 member states). The net exports are calculated by adding up all imports of the waste fraction that constitute one material type (different CN8 codes), applying the same method for the exports, and subsequently subtracting the total imports from the total exports for each distinct waste material.

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling was necessary for producing this indicator from the Eurostat database

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been identified in the methodology used by the EEA to process the source data

Data sets uncertainty

The links to the Eurostat methodology for the source datasets on generation and treatment of waste can be found here:  http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/EN/env_wasgt_esms.htm

Rationale uncertainty

The term ‘closed loop’ refers to an ideal situation where materials from waste products are returned directly to the production chain of equivalent products, instead of to a lower grade product i.e. construction waste from buildings is used for the construction of new buildings. The figures for recycling of waste do not provide information on whether recycled materials are returned to equivalent products or products requiring materials of lower quality.

Moreover, the indicator does not provide an indication of whether increases in the recovery of materials have led to an increased recycling rate or whether the generation of waste has increased at the same rate or more rapidly than increasing material recovery. If the latter is the case the EU would in fact be moving further from rather than closer towards a closed loop society. This information is provided in part by another Indicator SCP014.

Finally, it should be noted that the indicator doesn’t take account of reductions in quality of recycled materials compared to raw materials and how this may affect their potential for reuse in the same products from which they were originally recycled. This would be an essential characteristic of a truly closed loop society to which the question refers. The term ‘closed loop’ refers to an ideal situation where materials from waste products are returned directly to the production chain of equivalent products, instead of to a lower grade product.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Almut Reichel

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
SCP 015
Specification
Version id: 1

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Classification

DPSIR: Response
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Geographic coverage

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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