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The short-sighted EU raw material policy delayed zero waste

The European Union is the most dependent region in the world for imported raw materials from foreign countries. Therefore, there is a real interest in reducing this dependency. However, is the current policy suitable for establishing a closed-loop society in the EU? How does the zero waste concept contribute to achieving this goal?

The EU's high dependence on raw materials prompted the European Commission (2008) to launch a major new strategy, the Raw Materials Initiative (RMI). It consists of three pillars:

1- Ensure access to raw materials on the world market,

2- Promote the supply of raw materials in Europe

3- And reduce the EU's own consumption of primary raw materials.

This year, the European Parliament has been working on a new RMI under tremendous pressure from the industry. From the perspective of zero waste, we want to see all materials entering the EU reintroduced into the production cycle over and over again (cradle-to-cradle approach). We see that the EU's policy on this kind of RMI is quite short-sighted. New RMI puts all its energy on Pillar One and Pillar Two, namely the use of diplomatic and non-diplomatic means to obtain raw materials in a way that often undermines the global South’s ability to develop its own industries. For the time being, the main driving force of RMI is free trade and all its consequences. Unfortunately, the text does not contain a real way to reduce the consumption of these raw materials in the EU (the EU consumes 3 times as much material as Asia and 4 times as much as Asia). ) Exceeds Africa), and cannot fill the material gap, thus enabling the EU to improve its sustainability.

In other words, there is almost no mention of recycling as a way to recycle materials in RMI. Although there are usually good words about sustainability and the EU becoming a "recycling society", the current policy is still to import materials, make full use of them, and let the poor and the rest of the world dispose of waste. In the current RMI, there is neither a goal nor a purpose for measuring the flow of material into and out of the EU. Without knowing what is going in and out, it is impossible to treat the recycling target as a way to recycle these materials, thereby reducing this dependence on foreign countries.

Oxfam and Traidcraft have conducted a good analysis of RMI. They correctly believe that the EU's primary task should be to reduce resource consumption and switch to a low-resource economy model. This is exactly what the zero waste model looks like; by making it possible to substantially recycle all materials entering the European Union, the waste is eliminated.

Times have changed, and old-fashioned strategies based on resource extraction and peer pressure on poor countries will no longer work. Although "resource intensity" (the amount of raw materials needed to achieve growth) is declining globally, the absolute amount of natural resources mined each year is increasing due to economic growth-the world's natural resources mined are now approximately more than in 1980. 50%. This means that scarcer resources will become more expensive and inaccessible, and it makes sense to try to close the loop. Any EU material and resource policy that does not include maximizing material recycling rates and resource efficiency will harm the EU’s economic future. The vote of the European Parliament’s Industry Committee on the resource efficiency target is a worrying sign that may hijack the future of the EU’s resource efficiency strategy.

RMI should pay more attention to material productivity and how to recycle materials that are already in the EU and will eventually be dumped, burned or exported. The zero waste strategy will allow the recycling of these materials. In fact, most zero-waste cities in Europe rarely send these precious materials for disposal.

Any EU material and resource policy that does not include maximizing material recycling rates and resource efficiency will harm the EU’s economic future.

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