The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Alexander Mohr, Secretary General of APEAL, the Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging.

APEAL is an active supporter of the Circular Economy Package (CEP) and has been following developments in the European Commission closely for many months now.

The CEP’s stated ambition has always been to help European businesses and consumers make the transition to a stronger and more circular economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way. The European Commission continuously underlines how “closing the loop” of product lifecycles, through greater recycling for example, will bring benefits for both the environment and the economy. That’s something we can all applaud.

But progress on implementing CEP is proving to be slow.

This is partly due to the huge amount of debate it has created, and partly because a first CEP, officially withdrawn at the start of 2015, was replaced by a revised package only last December.

And we have had to wait until June of this year for the European Parliament’s draft report in response, by rapporteur Simona Bonafe, MEP. But environment ministers from across the EU have now finally met to discuss the report.

Of course we are expecting more debate and discussion over what should and shouldn’t be in the CEP and how it should be implemented. But this will give us at APEAL the opportunity to continue to highlight the benefits of steel for packaging as a model material for the circular economy.

Increased recycling of packaging is an element that could be implemented quickly. The CEP sets clear targets for reduction of waste and establishes an ambitious and credible long-term path for waste management and recycling.

These targets include a common EU target for recycling packaging materials, economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support for packaging recycling schemes.

The current CEP envisages higher recycling targets for all packaging materials, notably 75% for ferrous metal by 2025. Many considered these targets too ambitious, but we feel they are achievable.

Indeed at the end of June APEAL was pleased to announce that recycling of steel packaging in Europe has reached a new all-time high of 76%. Countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium are already achieving outstanding steel packaging recycling rates of over 90%.

This record rate, which represents data from 2014, confirms steel as Europe’s most recycled packaging material for the tenth consecutive year and sees the recycling rate of steel packaging pull further away from that of other packaging materials.

The methodology and data sources used by APEAL for the calculation of this rate were independently reviewed audited and certified by energy and waste specialist consultancy, Eunomia.

What’s more, by sharing best practices across Europe we are confident that we will meet our self-imposed industry target of 80% recycling by 2020.

Steel has a unique blend of inherent properties that have been taken advantage of to the fullest extent. Infinite recyclability without loss of quality combined with ease of separation from waste streams thanks to its magnetic nature make steel the material of choice.

It is also the case that every steel manufacturing plant across Europe is also a recycling facility as steel scrap is an inherent part of the production process for new steel. Steel can be easily and economically extracted from any waste stream by magnetic separation and transported to regional steel manufacturing plants. The overall impact is a further reduction in CO2 emissions and energy usage, which all adds to steel’s sustainability credentials, as well as a simple and efficient recycling process.

A new CEP highlighting the positive role of permanent materials such as steel and their high recycling potential is clearly the way forward.

APEAL would continue to be an active supporter of a CEP headed in this direction.

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