The Waste Shipment Regulation was presented by the European Commission in late 2021 and included it as a priority dossier in the 2023 Work Programme. The revision aims to ease shipments of waste for reuse and recycling in the EU, to support the transition to a circular economy by ensuring that waste exported from the EU is managed in an environmentally sound manner in the destination countries, and shift to digital solutions.
At an international level, waste shipment is regulated under the Basel Convention. It controls the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal. Parties to the convention – including the EU and all its Member States – are required to ensure that hazardous wastes are managed and disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. The Basel Convention covers wastes defined as ‘hazardous’ based on their origin and/or composition and characteristics. The Waste Shipment Regulation implements the provisions of the Basel Convention into EU law. In December 2022, the Commission proposed adding new metal entries to Annex I, including silver compounds.
How precious metals contribute to more circular economy?
Precious metals are the materials of choice in transitioning to a circular economy. They are infinitely recyclable, and thanks to the world’s most comprehensive and technologically advanced refining facilities, end-of-life products and production scrap containing precious metals can be successfully and economically refined. Recovery rates exceed 95% and, depending on the type of material, often surpass 99%. Waste is a resource, and the EPMF aims to increase public understanding of how precious metals contribute to the circular economy. Precious metals can be recycled ad infinitum without losing their intrinsic properties and are critical to sustainable product design in the circular economy.
The EPMF’s key messages
Waste policies are of utmost importance to the precious metals sector; revising the rules on waste shipments will enhance the ability of chemicals and products to enable recycling to improve the uptake of secondary raw materials and substitute substances of concern. It will reduce their presence and enhance tracking if this is not possible. The main challenges for the precious metals industry are the need for more information about substances of concern in products and waste, their presence in recycled products and difficulties in applying EU waste classification methodologies.
Silver is easy to recycle and can be re-used ad infinitum.
Rhodium collected directly from an industrial process, such as industrial catalysts, can be recycled at rates nearing 95%.
Small amounts of gold can be found in almost every electronic device. Although the amount in each device is only very small, the enormous number of devices translates into a lot of unrecycled gold. Each year Europe loses 4 tons of gold by not fully recycling all electronic waste.