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Metals recycling need to be reconsidered!


  UNEP and International Resource Panel issued recently a report calling to rethink practices of metals recycling. In the past metals recycling was relatively straightforward and concentrated on specific materials as most products were relatively simple; this form of recycling follows the so-called ‘Material & Metal Centric’ approach. Today the complexity of metals recycling has increased alongside with the continuous creation of innovative technological products that mixes almost any imaginable metal or other material. Recycling these products is becoming more and more difficult as trying to recover one material would often destroy or scatter another, and it is clear that a ‘Product Centric’ approach is needed. 

Reminding metals’ crucial role in the global economy as input of raw materials for infrastructures, the report underlines that global demand for metals is expected to remain strong or even increasing due to the rapid industrialization of developing countries and the diffused use of metals in advance technologies. Metals’ extraction activities cause severe local environmental disturbances and absorb nearly eight percent of the global energy supply. However, metals can be recycled almost indefinitely, thus presenting a valuable opportunity to reduce environmental degradation, energy and water use and contribute to the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy.  

The report highlights the importance of exploring the specific components of a product and devising ways to separate and recover metals. Product designers need to ensure that the different materials in products can still be recovered easily when they reach the end of their life. Still far too much valuable metal is lost because of the imperfect collection of end-of-life products, improper practices, or structural deficiencies within the recycling chain, which hinder achieving our goals of high resource efficiency and resource security, and of better recycling rates. The report issued a series of recommendations to attain a workable sustainable metals management system.   

The R4R project targets resource efficiency by providing best practices about waste collection and recycling performance across EU regions.  

Source: The UNEP and the International Resource Panel report on metal recycling

Intereg IVC European Union
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