CEMBUREAU has taken note of the European Parliament’s adoption of its ‘Own Initiative Report on Resource Efficiency: moving towards a circular economy’. The European cement association has said that it welcomes the Parliament’s support for a sustainable supply of materials from European sources, as well as the call for legal certainty and long term predictability. In addition, it also recognise that a variety of voluntary resource-efficiency indicators which take into consideration the three pillars of sustainability will have a role to play in the circular economy. Nevertheless, CEMBUREAU cautions that a “one-size-fits all” target is likely to have unintended consequences on the EU economy. It therefore raises some key points that it believes should be born in mind for the upcoming European Commission Circular Economy proposal.
In terms of raw material extraction, CEMBUREAU supports policy measures which encourage sustainable extraction, rather than those which focus solely on reduction. “For example, concrete is 100 per cent 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 per cent of our aggregate needs. Therefore, in order to make new concrete, primary aggregates will still be required,” the association highlights.
CEMBUREAU also notes a tendency to focus on ‘closed-loop’ recycling, stressing that this 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 which provides the best environmental, social and economic outcome,” it states.
The idea of imposing a minimum recycled content on new products is also one which CEMBUREAU believes could prove counter-productive. “It is not always a given that a recycled material has the lowest environmental impact,” the association said. Using the example of concrete, it notes that 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.
CEMBUREAU 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 life cycle approach should be applied, taking into account not only the raw material mass, but also efficient production, use and end of life,” it adds.