At Electrão we are always looking to the future to predict trends, anticipate challenges and create new solutions to improve the delivery, routing, and treatment of the waste streams we manage.
The regulation on essential raw materials, which the European Union is preparing to adopt, aims to respond to the demand for certain materials considered critical for the sovereignty of the European Union and the operationalization of the digital and energy transition in the common space.
Some of these elements are present in electrical equipment. This will therefore be another factor of pressure on the recycling system to increase the collection numbers and to adapt the systems to ensure the separation of these materials, which today does not happen, even in formal systems.
This reality forces us to tackle the sector's problems that are well identified and continue to prevent better results in this area, namely the parallel market, the lack of supervision, and the lack of collaboration between the various actors in the value chain.
The new rules, which should produce immediate effects in Portuguese legislation, bring great challenges to the national recycling system since they assume that greater quantities of electrical equipment are to be collected and recycled.
The new rules must therefore be seen as an opportunity to intensify recycling, reduce the extraction of virgin materials from the planet and make Europe more autonomous in this area, considering all the changes that need to be made.
The end-of-life management obligation for certain products with single-use plastics stems from a European directive, fully transposed into national legislation at the end of last year, which has been in place since the beginning of 2023. The goal is the protection of the environment, in particular the oceans.
The first extended producer responsibility system to be set up and put into operation will be dedicated to the end-of-life management of tobacco products.
Other emerging flows covered by the Directive will be managed under other new systems to be implemented. This is the case of fishing nets, wipes, and balloons, which correspond to the items most found on the beaches of the European Union. This is the first year of Europe's mobilization for the implementation of these systems.
The management of used batteries 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 many new features.
The changes to be made apply not only to environmental protection but also to ethical and social issues associated with the importation of some materials.
The new rules call for minimum levels of raw materials essential for 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. More information on the characteristics of the products will also have to be provided to consumers, including data on the level of incorporation of recycled materials, chemical composition, performance, and durability.
The planned changes are aimed at improving collection and recycling outcomes 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.
The separate collection of biowaste, which will become mandatory until 31 December 2023, follows the policies defined by the European Union in the framework of the Circular Economy.
This is an example of a measure that will avoid the waste of compostable organic material that could contribute to the enrichment of soils in Portugal.
But if this strategy will allow, on the one hand, to produce of an organic corrective and compost of great quality, to be applied in the soils, it will enhance, at the same time, the use of other recyclable materials that are still incorrectly deposited in the undifferentiated garbage.
With this change, the common garbage bin of our homes will have less organic waste, so the potential recyclable materials placed there, which therefore have a lower contamination rate, can be more easily reused.
This change has impacts on the three recycling systems managed by Electrão. The diversion of the bio-waste fraction from the undifferentiated waste will allow some packaging, incorrectly deposited there, to be recovered, but also batteries and some small electrical equipment, which continue to be improperly placed there.
The challenge facing the sector in this area is to promote an increasingly efficient collection that allows easier separation of this equipment in mechanical treatment systems.
The strategic plan for municipal waste 2030 (PERSU 2030) materializes the European Union's ambition to move towards a circular economy in which waste is considered a resource.
The ambitious objectives set out in PERSU 2030, in line with the European guidelines, aim to ensure the quality of the environment, protect human health, ensure prudent, efficient, and rational use of natural resources, and reduce the Union's dependence on imported resources.
The prevention of waste and the increase of preparation for reuse and recycling, as well as the promotion of other forms of recovery of municipal waste, with consequent reduction of the consumption of primary raw materials, are premises of this strategic instrument.
The plan focuses on implementing the waste hierarchy, focusing on prevention, and foresees a reversal of the trend, observed over the last few years, of increasing waste production through measures that encourage the reuse or extension of the useful life of products.
A substantial increase in the quantities collected separately is envisaged to increase the quality of the recovered waste, which is essential for obtaining products with higher added value. This is a key factor in the transition to a circular economy with high resource efficiency.