CORDIS - EU research results

Voluntary certification scheme for waste treatment

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CEWASTE (Voluntary certification scheme for waste treatment)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-04-30

Sustainable access to critical raw materials (CRMs) is crucial to secure the competitiveness of European firms, high-tech and green industries. Europe remains too reliant on foreign supply and, therefore, its access to some raw materials remains uncertain. Even though recycling is one of the important means to mitigate the supply risk of CRMs, recycling rates of most of them are close to zero. Recycling is not economically attractive for most CRMs, due to, on the one hand, huge capital required in the development of technologies and, on the other, low and volatile prices of CRMs.
As a response to this challenge the H2020 project Voluntary Certification Scheme for Waste Treatment (CEWASTE) aimed to improve the recycling of valuable and critical raw materials (CRMs) from key types of waste through traceable and sustainable treatment processes in the entire supply chain of secondary materials. To achieve this goal, the project has developed and validated a voluntary certification scheme for collection, transport and treatment facilities of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and waste batteries containing significant amounts of these materials. As such, CEWASTE contributes to attaining sustainable access to CRMs and achieving objectives set by the EU action plan for implementing Circular Economy.
To achive its objectives the project was structured into five key steps (Figure 1). As a first step, a comprehensive baseline and gap analysis was performed with the aim to understand existing recovery practices, standards and verification schemes related to valuable and critical raw materials and to identify how these can be leveraged for CEWASTE. Based on a set of pre-defined criteria, the consortium identified the 14 types/categories of Key CRM Equipment (KCE), from WEEE and waste batteries from EEE and end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) with sufficiently high concentrations and feasible processing technologies enabling the recycling of CRMs (Figure 2).
More than 60 normative requirements such as legislation, standards and their certification schemes applicable to the identified Key CRM Equipment were mapped and assessed for stipulations that could be referenced and used for the CEWASTE certification scheme. The result of the mapping exercise revealed that while non-technical requirements applicable to the collection and treatment of Key CRM Equipment are addressed in the existing standards, there are hardly any technical requirements in place for the recycling of valuable and CRMs. By taking stock of the existing standards and guidelines, more specifically the CENELEC EN 50625 standard series, the project has developed new set of normative requirements for environmental, social, technology and governance performance of collection, transport and treatment facilities of the identified Key CRM Equipment.
To ensure that the facilities in the value chain comply with the identified normative requirements, the project established an assurance system and related verification mechanisms. With reference to existing certification schemes, auditing standards and good practice guides a framework for the assurance system was developed. Among others, a check-list (Excel file) document is developed which provides support for auditors to assess the compliance of an operators’ facility with the CEWASTE requirement.
The feasibility and practicality of the CEWASTE scheme was validated through twenty pilot audits at companies in Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland as well as in Columbia, Rwanda and Turkey covering the entire value chain of WEEE recycling. Moreover, by conducting a robust and transparent stakeholder process, including face-to-face meetings and online public consultation process, the project team ensured engagement with a broader group of external experts.
One of the key outcomes of the project is a roadmap for long-term sustainability of the CEWASTE scheme in which barriers to CRM recovery are analysed and solutions and business models for improving the process are suggested. These results and recommendations were presented in the project’s Final Event held on 24 March, during which key stakeholders from industry, standardization bodies, civil society (NGO) and the European Commission further discussed these solutions.
By addressing normative requirements specific for CRMs in the entire value chain, the CEWASTE certification scheme aimed at identifying best practices in the sustainable collection of products containing valuable and CRMs and the production of secondary resources of these materials. When adopted, this will foster the creation of a level playing field in EU and creation of a favorable environment for investment in new collection and recovery technologies. This will particularly have an impact on the channelling of material flows to players able to recover valuable and CRMs and avoiding dissipation along the end-of-life chain. With this, the recovery rates of the target materials through collection and recycling and their reintroduction into the EU economy will be increased. Moreover, operating according to standards will set the rules for fair competition, which in turn will have a positive impact on employment.
The CEWASTE consortium believes that the responsibility of undertaking actions to increase recycling of CRMs lies with various actors in the value chain; it is a societal challenge. Considering this, the relevant authorities must make the recovery of CRMs economically viable. To do this, the project has provided a set of recommendations:
• Legislation should require recovery of specific CRMs.
• Supplementary market incentives should stimulate, as much as possible, the use of secondary CRMs in new products.
• Financial or fiscal incentives should be used to spur the economic viability of recovering CRMs and using secondary CRMs.
• Platforms where demand for recycled components, materials and CRMs meets supply should be promoted.
• Actors involved in the collection of e-waste should raise awareness of the importance of recycling of CRMs.
• Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) should consider consolidating fractions of CRM-rich products in adequate quantities (“clustering”) to make recycling attractive.
• Actors in the value chain should be in the position to access information on the CRM rich components, thereby making monitoring of actual recycling of CRMs easier.
• The relevant authorities should do a better job at enforcing rules around transboundary shipment of CRM-rich fractions outside the EU and the respect of technical standards along the value chain.
• The CEWASTE normative requirements must be integrated into the EN 50625 series and the whole set must be made legally binding.
• The sector needs more targeted investments in research and development of new technologies.
Overview of the approach of the CEWASTE project
List of Key CRM Equipment (KCE) and Key CRM Components (KCC) identified for the CEWASTE project