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Cembureau highlights key arguments for circular economy proposal

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World Cement,

Cembureau has welcomed the European Parliament’s support for a sustainable supply of materials from European sources, following the adoption of its ‘Own Initiative Report on Resource Efficiency: moving towards a circular economy’. Cembureau also responded positively to the call for legal certainty and long-term predictability. However, the association has warned that a one-size-fits-all target could have unintended consequences on the EU economy and has raised some key points for the European Commission Circular Economy proposal to bear in mind. These are copied below:

In terms of raw material extraction, we support policy measures which encourage extraction, rather than those which focus solely on reduction. For example, concrete is 100% recyclable and recycled concrete aggregates can be used to produce new concrete. However, even if all concrete demolition waste were to become available for recycling into new concrete, it could only meet around 30% of our aggregate needs. Therefore, in order to make new concrete, primary aggregates will still be required.

We also note a tendency to focus on ‘closed-loop’ recycling. Here we must stress that closed-loop recycling is not the only type of recycling to offer environmental benefits. The use of recycled materials for applications other than the original one should also be encouraged. The recycling option selected should be the one that provides the best environmental, social and economic outcome.

The idea of imposing a minimum recycled content on new products is also one that we believe could prove counter-productive. It is not always a given that a recycled material has the lowest environmental impact. When taking the example of concrete, if recycled concrete aggregates are not available close to the construction site, then the environmental impact of transporting them could be greater than if locally available natural aggregates were to be used.

We also believe that it is important to focus on end products, such as buildings, rather than on individual components. Indeed, in the case of construction, the performance of a product greatly depends on external factors such as design, installation and use. Therefore, and in order to judge the resource efficiency of an end product, a whole lifecycle approach should be applied, taking into account not only the raw material mass, but also efficient production, use and end of life.

Adapted from press release by

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