European Commission Establishes Criteria For Scrap Metals Recovered From Waste

BRUSSELS--The European Commission has adopted a technical regulation setting out standards that scrap aluminium, iron, and steel must meet before they can be considered a recovered raw material rather than waste.

According to the text adopted March 31, harmonizing the criteria across the 27-nation EU bloc will ensure high-quality recovered raw materials for the metals industry by guaranteeing scrap “devoid of hazardous properties and sufficiently free of non-metallic compounds.”

The criteria take into account the environmental impact of processing scrap metal and aim to ensure that the processing complies with health-protection laws.

The end-of-waste criteria for aluminium, iron, and steel will enter into force when published in the EU Official Journal, and will then apply across the European Union after a six-month transition period. A Commission official said it was not possible to say precisely when the rules will be published.

Harmonized rules are needed because some EU countries have “developed different and not always compatible frameworks for regulating recovered materials,” the Commission said.

The European Union’s top environment official, Commissioner Janez Potocnik, said the rules will boost metal recycling and are an “important step towards Europe’s goal of becoming a resource-efficient economy and a recycling society.”

Waste Framework.

The Commission adopted the regulation as an implementing provision of the EU Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC). That overarching law, finalized in October 2008, sets recycling targets for household and general waste and codifies waste treatment into a five-step hierarchy, with priority given to recovery of waste and use of landfills for waste as a last resort (31 INER 987, 10/29/08).

The Commission said it plans to set more end-of-waste criteria under the Waste Framework Directive for other types of waste, such as compost, copper, glass, and paper.

A small number of EU member states were critical of some aspects of the regulation. Austria and Latvia opposed the measure, while Estonia and Lithuania did not endorse it but did not attempt to block it.

Austria said in a statement that the regulation is weak on enforcement and does not require scrap metal imported into the European Union to conform with the criteria.

This could lead to a situation in which “only low-quality scrap is imported into the EU, while high-quality scrap can easily be exported from the EU,” Austria said.

By Stephen Gardner

The EU regulation establishing criteria determining when certain types of scrap metal cease to be waste is available at