Towards recycling indicators based on EU flows and raw materials system analysis data
Supporting the EU-28 raw materials and circular economy policies through RMIS
Relevant and reliable recycling data and indicators are vital to key EU policies related to raw materials, waste management, and circular economy, in order to better understand the present and monitor the progresses towards the future. In the 2016 Raw Materials Scoreboard and in the context of the 2017 list of critical raw materials (CRM) for the EU, the selected recycling indicator is the end-of-life recycling input rate (EOL-RIR). EOL-RIR reflects the total material input into the production system that comes from recycling of post-consumer scrap and is regarded as a robust measure of... recycling’s contribution to meeting materials demand in the EU (input perspective). EOL-RIR meets in fact the so-called "RACER criteria", i.e. it is considered Relevant, Accepted, Credible, Easy and Robust. The same indicator (EOL-RIR) is also adopted in the Circular Economy monitoring framework. With the above in mind, the objective of this report is threefold: (1) consolidate the methodology to calculate EOL-RIR (Principal recycling indicator), update relevant data, and fill data gaps, (2) identify a meaningful complementary recycling indicator, namely the end-of-life recycling rate (EOL-RR), focused on how efficient recycling industries and recycling routes in the EU are (output perspective), and (3) explore a methodology for estimating recycling potentials (future orientated perspective). Building on a previous JRC report, the key methodological issues related to the principal indicator EOL-RIR are described. Further guidance is provided, in particular, on how to handle multiple data sources in order to: (a) progressively switch from global to regional (EU-28) flows, (b) optimise the use of EU Material System Analysis (MSA) data, (c) ensure the highest level of comparability while mixing EU MSA, Global UNEP/IRP, and industry data. The most updated EOL-RIR figures for 78 raw materials are shown. Methodological details for the complementary recycling indicator (EOL-RR) are provided and results are shown for selected materials. EOL-RR captures the amount of secondary materials recovered and functionally recycled at end-of-life compared to the overall waste quantities generated, (output-related indicator). It therefore provides complementary information about the performance of the collection and recycling sector and is thus useful from a recyclers’ perspective. Results show that although EOL-RR is relatively high for several materials, which is synonymous with high efficiency of the EU recycling industries, recycling's contribution to overall demand (EOL-RIR) can be much lower, which can be explained as fast growing demand and/or expanding in-use stocks. A set of recycling indicators, rather than just one single indicator, is therefore needed. The estimate of recycling potentials (Additional recycling indicators) has shown to be an interesting exercise, with promising perspectives as a field of future investigation. The EOL-RIR (potential) can be estimated using the same system boundaries as the EOL-RIR, by considering the amount of material recoverable from non-dissipative end-use applications, under the assumption that the current demand, quantity of products collected for treatment, and import and export flows remain unchanged (‘snapshot in time’). The methodology is illustrated with few examples (Indium and Tungsten). A general conclusion is that recycling indicators need to be assessed by taking into account materials individually and using material system analyses (MSA)-derived data. Further expansion of raw materials coverage in MSA studies is needed and an update of the 2015 MSA study is advisable, as it used 2012 data, which is partly outdated. The EU Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) can play a key role for better collection, storage, and harmonisation of material flow related data in the EU.