EU must realise circular economy's full potential

The EU must realise the circular economy package's full potential, argues Alexis Van Maercke.

Alexis Van Maercke | Photo credit: APEAL

By Alexis Van Maercke

Alexis Van Maercke is Secretary General of APEAL

05 Apr 2017

As the circular economy package (CEP) moves forward, real progress is underway to help Europe make the transition to a stronger and more circular economy. But much work remains and it is imperative that the CEP reflects the positive contribution that permanent materials such as steel will make, and that the package is properly supported by a robust legal framework.

For 30 years APEAL has promoted the material qualities and sustainability benefits of steel for packaging. Now, we are closer than ever before to achieving a circular economy that reduces waste, saves resources and closes the material loop. 

Indeed, the European Commission has demonstrated commendable foresight in proposing such an ambitious package. Its swift implementation will undoubtedly be a key driver for change, bringing a harmonised EU approach to recycling, greater legal certainty and a more viable internal market for waste.


The CEP represents a significant step towards achieving higher recycling rates. It will also create new jobs and generate savings for businesses that will benefit from greater resource security. As the model material for a circular economy - with 76 per cent recycled in 2014 - steel packaging is ideally positioned to reach a higher recycling rate by 2025.

We have long advocated ambitious yet achievable recycling rates for all materials, on the understanding that we continue to measure the 'real recycling' rate. We support the Parliament's approach to place the measurement point of recycling at the input to the final recycling process. 

This point corresponds to the point of 'real recycling'. MEPs now have a strong mandate in the upcoming trilogue discussion with the Council and Commission. 

We also welcome proposals for a specific steel recycling target as opposed to the current legislation which combines steel and aluminium in a joint metal target. This approach will foster greater understanding of the recycling performance of all permanent materials.

The Parliament's endorsement of the concept of multiple recycling is also welcome as products and packaging materials can be kept in the material loop to become resources for other products and packaging. 

This can only contribute positively to an increased understanding of the corresponding concept of permanent materials, such as steel, which can be recycled forever. We encourage member states to take the multiple recycling principle on board in the final legislation and to incorporate the 'permanent materials' concept in the Council text.

We also strongly encourage safeguarding the 'internal market' legal base of the packaging and packaging waste directive.

Member states' national waste legislation proposals should preserve the internal market and the free circulation of packaging and packaged goods without creating disruption due to differences in interpretation or implementation. 

By strengthening the legal framework, EU policymakers can ensure the CEP realises its full potential. And our vision, at APEAL, for a closed steel loop can start to become reality.