International trade deal on raw materials from waste

4 Mar 2016 11:56 AM

On 3 March representatives from the Netherlands, France, Flanders, the United Kingdom, the private sector and environmental organisations signed an international deal to facilitate the trade of raw materials obtained from waste. The Green Deal for a North Sea Resources Roundabout (NSSR) will make it easier to trade in raw materials left over after waste incineration. This issue is high on the Netherlands’ agenda during its EU Presidency.

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An opportunity for the economy and the environment

All too often, raw materials left over from waste incineration, like aluminium and lead, or recyclable plastic are disposed of as waste. And the different ways countries view residual materials make them difficult to trade internationally. Kitchen and garden waste, for instance, can be composted and used as fertiliser but some countries simply consider it to be refuse. It’s a missed opportunity for the economy and the environment. With the Green Deal for a NSSR, environment minister Sharon Dijksma and economic minister Henk Kamp, together with environment ministers from Flanders, France and the UK as well as the private sector and environmental organisations, have agreed to remove these obstacles.

More scope for innovation

‘I want to give those companies leading the way in sustainability more scope to innovate, in order to make our economy greener,’ said Ms Dijksma. ‘And that’s exactly what this deal does. By redefining raw materials and working with our neighbours, it will be easier for businesses to innovate and operate in this area. That’s good for the environment and will also boost trade between countries in the North Sea region.’

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Green Deal will create jobs

‘This deal allows Dutch stakeholders in the raw materials and waste industries to benefit from a growing export market,’ said Mr Kamp. ‘It shows how the circular economy improves economic activity, employment and the environment. Our neighbours will start to see kitchen and garden waste as a potential fertiliser, for instance. This will make it easier to trade.’

Processing incineration leftovers

The deal also means that leftover material from waste incineration, like bottom ash, can be processed more effectively. One Dutch company already has the technology to recover tiny pieces of aluminium, lead, zinc, silver and gold from this ash. This means that ash could be exported from the UK to the Netherlands for processing. This is just one of the examples that private and public sector representatives from the participating countries are working on in their bid to remove obstacles to international trade.

Transitioning to a circular economy

Strengthening the circular economy – where waste is used as a raw material – is high on the Netherlands’ agenda during its EU Presidency. The European Commission estimates that by speeding up the transition to a circular economy, EU businesses could save €600 billion in production costs. That’s 8% of total turnover.  It will also lead to 580,000 extra jobs and an annual 450 million-tonne reduction in CO2 emissions. During the Netherlands Presidency, the ideas put forward by the Commission in December will be discussed with member states.