The European cement association, Cembureau, has raised concerns over EU plans to create a headline target figure for increasing resource efficiency.
According to the industry body, the European Commission’s environmental goals, which call for moving towards a zero-business waste culture and creating a “circular European economy” built on increased general recycling levels of 70% by 2030, did not recognise the contribution that the concrete and cement industry is presently making in relation to recycling policy.
Cembureau claimed the new EU targets, which also seek to increase packaging recycling rates to 80% over the next two decades, “failed to capture real resource efficiency improvements” in creating its targets around weight-based raw material consumption.
The organisation said, “We deem that such an approach (by the European Commission) would unfortunately not take into consideration the contribution of many industrial sectors to the EU’s resource efficiency objectives.
“While the cement and concrete industry is raw-material intensive by mass, it is also one of the biggest contributors to the circular economy. Cement and concrete are manufactured using natural materials which are generally abundant and locally available.
“In addition, the sustainable use of waste forms an integral part of the cement manufacturing process, and therefore Cembureau welcomes the recognition afforded to the role of energy recovery in the circular economy.”
Cembureau added that existing energy recovery practices meant that nearly 100% of waste material input is either recovered or recycled during production processes without generating further waste.
It also added that the lifespan of concrete of between 50 and 100 years meant it was viable to be recycled at the end of that period, which should be reflected in any policy on recycling targets.
As a result, the organisation called for recycling to be assessed in terms of its overall environmental, social and economic implications that should be considered at a local level.
Cembureau said that efficient use of resources throughout the extraction, manufacturing and construction processes should also be carefully planned to ensure a consistent policy on energy efficiency and waste.
In its opinion, that should include examining sustainability policies with regard to selection of construction materials that may be from scarce resources.
As it released its latest policy, the European Commission forecast that 580,000 more jobs in the EU could be created through enhancing environmental performance within businesses.
Environment commissioner, Janez Potočnik, said, “If we want to compete we have to get the most out of our resources, and that means recycling them back into productive use, not burying them in landfills as waste. Moving to a circular economy is not only possible, it is profitable, but that does not mean it will happen without the right policies.
“The 2030 targets that we propose are about taking action today to accelerate the transition to a circular economy and exploiting the business and job opportunities it offers."