On 27 September 2016, the Critical Raw Materials Alliance hosted its 7th CRM Day in Brussels, Belgium. The day, entitled: ‘CRMs & the Circular Economy: One of the Five Priority Areas’ featured presentations from the European Commission, the Commission’s Joint Research Centre, CRM producers, and users of CRMs, which touched on the many challenges facing CRMs in a circular economy, as well as the importance of CRMs to a number of sectors and commercial applications.
Launch of the MEP Interest Group Joint Statement on Critical Raw Materials – Prior to the debate on CRMs in the Circular Economy, the founder of the MEP Interest Group on Critical Raw Materials, Prof. Carlos Zorrinho launched, the MEP Interest Group on Critical Raw Materials’ Joint Statement. This statement, entitled: ‘a European Critical Raw Materials Policy’, and signed by 11 MEPs from the European Parliament’s three main political groups, calls upon the European Commission to devise a European CRM policy which takes into account the specific aspects of CRMs in all relevant future legislation, as well as underlines the importance and dependence of CRMs for the EU economy. This includes minimizing the adverse regulatory burdens that impede the advancement or the continued availability of CRMs by conducting a socio-economic analysis during the legislative process, increasing recycling of CRMs by eliminating disincentives in the context of waste legislation, and pushing for free and fair trade of CRMs.
CRMs & the Circular Economy Debate – After Prof. Zorrinho’s speech, the debate on the Circular Economy & CRMs kicked-off with a keynote speech from Mr. Gwenole Cozigou, Director for Industrial Transformation and Advanced Value Chains, DG GROW. This keynote was followed by two panel sessions, which examined CRMs and the Circular Economy from both upstream and downstream perspectives.
It became clear from the debate that, in the context of CRMs, the circular economy aims to tackle challenges relating to recovery, separation and treatment of waste containing CRMs, in order to improve resource efficiency as well as promote a secondary (critical) raw materials market; this secondary market in particular is seen as one of the ways to reduce the supply-risk for CRMs. This does, however, require giving (secondary) raw materials a product-centric approach.
CRM Alliance President, Dr. Martin Tauber, stated that: “whilst improving resource efficiency, product design and increased recovery of CRMs was a welcomed step, it can never entirely replace the need for primary CRM production. In fact, due to the unique properties of CRMs and their usage in green technologies, the demand for CRMs will only increase over the coming years. As a result, increased recovery, recycling and a secondary raw materials market of CRMs could not currently meet the level of demand required by EU industry, which is why there is a need for enhanced primary production of CRMs”.