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CLG Europe urges enhanced circularity in EU’s critical raw materials market

CLG Europe’s Materials & Products Taskforce, in collaboration with the Wuppertal Institute, has unveiled a report highlighting the pressing need for increased circularity within the European Union’s critical raw materials market. Titled “Embracing Circularity: A Pathway for Strengthening the Critical Raw Materials Act,” the report responds directly to the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA) published in March 2023.

The report contends that circularity extends beyond recycling and emphasizes the importance of keeping materials within the system effectively and for longer durations. It asserts that the current CRMA proposal inadequately addresses this aspect of circularity. Focused on three key materials – aluminum (bauxite and magnesium), lithium, and rare earth elements (REE) – the report draws on evidence-based research and includes circular case studies from industry players like Ball and Volvo Cars, offering recommendations to policymakers.

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Eliot Whittington, Chief Systems Change Officer at CISL, emphasized the potential of a more circular economy in Europe to address challenges related to key materials and climate change simultaneously. The report suggests that as the EU negotiates the CRMA, embracing circularity could expedite the region’s journey toward climate neutrality and strategic autonomy.

The demand for raw materials is integral to the green transition, impacting the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. With 24 materials listed in the CRMA imported from China and concerns about the environmental and societal impact of domestic mining, the report underscores the importance of the EU’s strategic autonomy.

The report proposes that a circular economy in the EU would enhance security of supply for critical raw materials, emphasizing the need for a deliberate shift toward a reuse model. Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick, President and Scientific Managing Director of the Wuppertal Institute, advocates for a circular economy as a more sustainable alternative to minimize environmental impact.

The report’s recommendations include implementing a more comprehensive circular approach within the CRMA, setting a flexible approach towards circularity, deploying forward-looking infrastructure, establishing a clear overall vision on a European Industrial Strategy, creating sustainable supply chains, and implementing financial incentives for green technologies.

The report was launched in the European Parliament on July 17, 2023, hosted by Sara Matthieu MEP, Shadow Rapporteur, ENVI Committee on the CRMA. The study was conducted by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) in collaboration with the Wuppertal Institute, commissioned by CLG Europe’s Taskforce for climate-neutral and circular materials and products.

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