EU boosts recycling ambitions for critical raw materials

The EU will aim to recycle at least 45% of each “Strategic Raw Material” contained in the Union’s waste under plans voted on by the European Parliament’s industry committee.

EU boosts recycling ambitions for critical raw materials

Pictured: Lithium extraction in Argentina

The new recycling goals were voted on as part of the Parliament’s position on the Critical Raw Materials Act, which aims to reduce the bloc’s dependency on China and other countries for key metals like rare earths.

The Parliament’s position was supported by a wide majority, with 53 votes in favour, one against and five abstentions, reflecting broad support among the assembly’s political groups.

“Europe needs a stable supply of key raw materials for its green transition,” said Henrike Hahn, a German lawmaker and the Green’s speaker on industrial policy in the European Parliament. “Materials such as lithium and rare earths are indispensable for key products of Europe’s green and digital future, such as solar panels, windmills, electric cars, and computer chips,” she added.

Unveiled by the European Commission in March, the proposal sets benchmarks to increase domestic capacity for raw materials extraction, processing and recycling, with aspirational targets corresponding to 10, 40 and 15% of the EU’s annual consumption.

But the Parliament turned this logic around to ensure the EU recycles directly from its own waste streams. “We have improved the recycling benchmark by changing the approach and referring to a Union recycling capacity in proportion to all Strategic Raw Materials contained in waste,” Hahn said.

The previous recycling benchmark was relative to the EU’s total consumption of each raw material, not how much ends up in its waste.

Refining and processing capacity 

On Thursday, lawmakers also voted to increase the EU’s goal for domestic refining and processing capacity of critical raw materials, raising it from 40% to 50%. This is in line with the demands of EU countries, which supported the same objective during a vote on 30 June.

In addition, members of Parliament introduced a new benchmark “so that the Union consumes less Critical Raw Materials than predicted in a reference scenario,” Hahn said.

Transport and Environment (T&E), a green campaign group, welcomed the move. “These targets mean Europe will onshore refining and processing, ensure it is done sustainably, and develop expertise in these areas that it currently doesn’t have,” said Julia Poliscanova, senior director for vehicles and e-mobility supply chains at T&E.

But while the goals of the Critical Raw Materials Act are essential, T&E warned Europe still lacks the financial firepower to implement them.

“After the CRMA is agreed, the next step should be to unlock funding for critical raw materials under the ETS innovation fund, which was recently broadened to go beyond innovation and also help scale up clean technologies,” Poliscanova told EURACTIV before the vote.

On Thursday, the Parliament’s industry committee also backed stricter conditions for the EU-wide recognition of industry-led sustainability certification schemes and strengthened the social and environmental safeguards for “strategic” mining projects supported by the EU, whether in Europe or abroad.

The Critical Raw Materials Act is now expected to be voted in the European Parliament’s plenary on 11 September, opening the way for final “trilogue” talks with EU member states and the European Commission to approve the legislation.

Frederic Simon,

This article first appeared on, an edie content partner

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