Resource efficiency in the circular economy

The availability of raw materials is the basis for industrial value creation and hence for jobs, growth and the competitiveness of companies. Against the background of ever increasing demand for raw materials around the world, there is no escaping the need for sustainable use of raw materials.

Alongside efficient use of primary raw materials in production, the re-use of substances as well as recovery from waste in the form of materials or energy constitute the central pillar of a circular economy. It is in the fundamental interest of German companies to use resources carefully and to become less dependent on raw material imports.

Given an estimated saving potential of € 90 billion on imports, resource efficiency as a component of a circular economy is not only an opportunity but even a must as raw material prices rise in the years ahead due to scarcity of resources. That is why raw materials from domestic waste are being used more strongly. The goal of a truly sustainable circular economy is to bring substances back into circulation as far as is possible within physical limits. This includes the concept of extended product responsibility on the part of manufacturers and distributors: it encompasses the design and material selection for packaging and goods in order to enable their constituent materials to be recycled in an economically and ecologically optimised manner.

At the present time Germany is a leader in the area of recycling. This position needs to be developed with further efficiency gains. This can best be achieved if market economy principles apply in all stages of the waste management chain. The successful processes and infrastructures already in place must therefore be maintained if Germany wants to secure its technological lead in international competition.

Taking the complete lifecycle into consideration

The Federation of German Industries (BDI) welcomes the presentation of the EU package on Circular Economy. “Through this initiative, the raw material potential in the single market can be better used to the benefit of consumers and businesses. With it, the European Commission seeks to improve the availability of raw materials in Europe” said Holger Lösch, BDI’s Deputy Director General.

“The circular economy can promote the efficient use of resources by taking the complete lifecycle into consideration. But only if European requirements and laws are also properly implemented in the Member States” said Lösch. Yet in reality waste in many countries continues to end up in landfill sites. “The circular economy package must bring about fundamental improvements by placing the right emphasis” urged Lösch. “The example of Germany with its high recycling and recovery standards shows that this is possible”.

Lösch warned that other well-functioning instruments could be jeopardised by the design of the circular economy. “It would be counterproductive to distort implementation of the eco-design directive one-sidedly through new statutory requirements on recycling”. When products are designed, all aspects must be taken into account in a balanced way: environmental protection, safety and functionality.