The dependency of the European Union on the imports of primary raw materials was one of the major drivers for the release of the circular economy strategy, in which resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised by closing material loops. As part of the shift towards a circular economy, proposals introducing new waste-management targets regarding reuse, recycling and landfilling have been made. In this study the potential impact of these new targets for packaging waste (PW) and Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) on the EU´s supply of four raw materials, namely Iron & Steel, Aluminium, Plastics and Paper & Board, has been assessed. Thereto the method of material flow analysis has been applied in order to evaluate current and potential future flows of secondary raw material. The results of the investigations indicate that for Iron & Steel and Paper & Board already today about 50% of the EU´s production is made out of secondary raw materials. For Aluminium (36%) and Plastics (10%) this share however is significantly lower. Implementing higher recycling targets according to circular economy package would increase the domestic supply of secondary materials between 0.6% (Iron & Steel) and 70% (Plastics). Since today significant amounts of recyclables (equivalent to more than 10% of the total domestic raw material consumption) are already not utilized by the European industry but exported, it is highly questionable whether these additional quantities of recyclables derived from post-consumer waste will substitute primary raw materials in the EU. Quality constraints of the industry as well as production capacities for secondary raw materials in place might limit the domestic utilization of recyclables liberated by the circular economy. Hence, additional policy measures (e.g. targets for secondary production) seem to be necessary to enhance the rate of secondary production within the European Union.
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