The challenges facing the waste sector in this area are multiple and are now framed by the recently published Strategic Plan for Urban Waste (PERSU 2030).
Electrão remains committed to improving the overall results of packaging recycling, namely in plastic and glass, and therefore integrates innovative collaboration platforms, such as the Portuguese Pact for Plastics and the Glass+ Platform.
Also, in 2022 Electrão developed a study of characterization of waste that results from the activity of urban cleaning and concluded that there is, in this universe, a great potential for recycling with packaging with little contamination index. Packaging separation projects based on urban cleaning can thus significantly increase recycling, precisely in plastic and glass.
The expansion of the scope of activity to the sphere of used packaging of non-urban origin will be another of the major changes in this recycling system that will imply a model of operation and articulation of the different agents. Until now, the system only promoted the collection and recycling of urban packaging in collaboration with municipal waste management systems, but it will now have to include the main agent of the non-urban circuit, the waste management operator.
The new deposit refund scheme has not yet come into operation on a large scale, at the national level, but the effects have already begun to be felt in the packaging recycling system, because of the pilot projects that have been developed all over the country. Electrão has integrated and continues to promote one of these pilot projects -the "MAFRA recycle a valer+" - in collaboration with several partners.
Many beverages packaging, like cans and plastic bottles, less than three liters, are now included in the new model, but there is a part that will continue to be sent to the traditional recycling bins and, unfortunately, to the common garbage. The system is not yet operationalized in Portugal and Europe is already discussing a new regulation for this flow.
Given the need to improve the collection and recycling results of batteries at European level, this flow will soon be guided by a new Community regulation, linked to the action plan for the circular economy and the European Union's industrial strategy, which will bring more news. The changes to be made apply not only to environmental protection, but also to ethical and social issues related to the importation of some materials.
The new rules call for minimum levels of raw materials critical to the digital and ecological transition, such as cobalt, lead, lithium, and nickel, to be recovered through recycling and incorporated into new products.
Batteries will have to be easier to remove and replace, which will impact product life cycles.
The planned changes are intended to improve collection and recycling results in this area, with the imposition of even stricter targets, which will be a major challenge for the entire value chain, from design to consumption to end-of-life management systems.
We accept that stabilizing a text for new licenses for used batteries in the context of the imminent adoption of a new European regulation for this flow is a challenging task, to say the least.
The European Union is preparing to adopt the regulation on critical raw materials, which aims to meet the demand for certain materials considered strategic for the sovereignty of the European Union and for the operationalization of the digital and energy transition.
Some of these elements are present in electrical equipment, which will imply increase collection and recycling. In Portugal this reality forces us to face the problems of the sector that are well identified and continue to prevent the achievement of good recycling results, in particular, those related to the illegal market, the lack of supervision and the lack of accountability of the different actors in the value chain.
It is public that there are many black-market operators who illegally divert and process waste from formal channels with serious damage to human health, environment and economy. It is therefore urgent to invest in a modern inspection system that uses digital instruments. An example of the innovation needed in this field are the GPS that Electrão used in the context of the WEEE Follow project and that allowed to confirm the size of the black-market: 3 out of 4 used equipment placed on the public road are diverted to this informal circuit.