The circular economy is a complicated and inter-sectorial topic, that needs an integrated and cross-cutting monitoring framework. In fact, tracking the various trends and patterns is key to assess the progress made, understand the development of the circular economy over time and plan future actions.
The communication provides an interesting material flow diagram that displays the lifecycle of materials in the EU economy (Figure 1). The flow of non-metallic minerals is particularly relevant for SeRaMCo. Non-metallic minerals are more than half of the material domestically originated every year, and only a scarce quantity comes from outside of the EU (5% of the total materials’ annual imports). Moreover, non-metallic minerals are the most recycled materials in the EU, making up for 45% of the total recycling percentage, which is still fairly low (27% of the total waste per year).
Figure 1- Material Flow Diagram (EU-28, 2014) Source: EU Communication on a Circular Economy Monitoring Framework (COM(2018)29 )
From such overview, considering responses from public consultation, discussions with Member States and stakeholders, the European Commission laid down ten indicators, based on existing EU policies, grouped into four stages: Production and consumption; Waste management; Secondary Raw Materials; Competitiveness and innovation.
The following indicators would be relevant for SeRaMCo:
1 EU self-sufficiency for raw materials. As previously stated, the majority of materials originated in the EU are non-metallic minerals, and that includes construction materials. Therefore, this indicator shows that the EU is already widely self-sufficient for the majority of these materials, but there is still considerable room for improvement.
2 Green Public Procurement. This indicator – still under development – could potentially be very useful in pushing construction and demolition waste recycling. In fact, stimulating public authorities to purchase environmentally friendly materials – which also includes recycling materials – would constitute a substantial driver for the circular economy.
5a-b Overall Recycling rates. The communication dedicates a small section to construction and demolition waste, presenting it as the most successful waste stream in terms of recycling, re-using and recovery rates. However, it does specify that the majority of recycled materials goes to backfilling, an activity which does not stimulate circular economy, as the economic value of the material is lost. Therefore, even if the majority of Member States already stated to have reached the 70% recovery target, it is important to distinguish among the quality levels of such recovery.
6a-f Recycling rates for specific waste streams. This indicator digs into different waste streams, among which construction and demolition waste.
7a-b Contribution of recycled materials to raw materials demand. As previously stated, the percentage of recycled materials is still very low, and it only satisfies the 10% of the EU demand for materials. Therefore, the transition to a circular economy must pass through an increase in the share of secondary raw materials re-entering the market and contributing to the overall raw materials demand.