The End of Waste concept
The concept of End of Waste (EoW) can be described as the process or set of processes that allow a material considered waste to be transformed into a new product, reusable in a different production process.
This principle is placed within a broader context of environmental sustainability and the Circular Economy.
EoW is a means of management supported by specific EU regulations, the main purpose of which is to exploit the residual potential of waste, transforming it into useful resources again.
It is, in essence, about giving new life to matter that would otherwise be considered waste.
Let us now take a concrete look at how this tool is applied in the different product sectors.
Concrete examples of end-of-waste
Today, End of Waste is a tool used in various fields, allowing different types of waste and scrap to be valorised.
Specifically, the wastes that are currently valorised with this instrument on a European level are:
- copper waste;
- metal waste;
- glass waste;
- fertiliser products.
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The End of Waste process in the copper sector is specifically regulated by European regulations such as Council Regulation (EU) No 333/2011 and Commission Regulation (EU) No 715/2013.
Within this regulation, the Commission has established a set of criteria establishing when recovered copper ceases to be considered waste, in accordance with Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council.
In detail, for scrap copper to cease to be classified as waste, when the transfer from the producer to another holder takes place, all the following conditions must be met:
- The quality of the materials: scrap, being obtained from recovery operations, must comply with the specifications contained in point 1 of Annex I of the regulation.
- The identification of materials: in Section 2 of Annex I, the regulation specifies the criteria that waste used as material of the recovery operation must meet.
- Processes and treatment: guidance on the treatment of copper waste is listed in Section 3 of Annex I. In addition, in Articles 4 and 5, the regulation subjects the producer to the criteria of declaration of conformity and management system.
Metals for reuse
In addition to providing specific provisions on copper, Regulation (EU) No 333/2011, issued by the European Council on 31 March 2011, protects the EoW of certain other types of scrap metal such as iron, steel and aluminium.
The legislation, in fact, introduces a number of fundamental criteria outlining when certain types of scrap metal cease to be considered waste.
For such materials to cease to be waste, therefore, well-defined requirements must be met:
- The quality of the materials: iron and steel scrap obtained from the recovery operation must meet the criteria set out in Section 1 of Annex I of the regulation.
- The identification of materials: in Section 2 of Annex I, the regulation specifies the criteria that the waste used as material of the recovery operation must fulfil.
- Processes and treatment: guidance on the treatment of wastes of these specific metals is listed in Annex I, point 3. Again, the producer must comply with the requirements of Articles 5 and 6.
A very virtuous example of End of Waste is the case of glass waste, defined and protected by the European Commission Regulation No. 1179/2012.
The regulation sets a number of conditions which, if met, allow these materials to lose their waste classification.
When the producer transfers these materials to another holder, the requirements must be met:
- The quality of the materials: the waste glass recovery operation, again, must comply with the criteria set out in the reference legislation, in point 1 of Annex I.
- The identification of materials: the regulation specifies, in the next point, the criteria that the waste used as must fulfil.
- Processes and treatment: Annex I also specifies, in point 3, the instructions for the treatment of glass waste. Articles 4 and 5, on the other hand, lay down the relative requirements to be followed by producers.
- Remelting: the basic purpose of Regulation No. 1179/2012 is the remelting process, by which waste glass is used for the production of substances or, again, glass objects.
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The circularity of fertilisers
The most recent EU regulation on the EoW of fertilisers is Regulation (EU) 2019/1009, which addresses the issues previously dealt with in Regulation 2002/2003 on fertilisers.
This regulatory update, in particular, repeals and redefines the provisions stipulating which materials can be included in the fertiliser recovery process.
The new regulation addresses three different fundamental aspects: material categorisation, material quality requirements, processes and treatment.
Categorisation of materials
Article 1 of the Regulation defines the functional categories of fertiliser products and establishes specific safety and quality requirements that they must meet.
This approach aims to clearly identify the types of materials that may be used in fertiliser production and the conditions that must be met.
Quality requirements for materials
In order to be considered an EU fertiliser, the product must be composed exclusively of materials that meet the established requirements.
These must not, in fact, contain any of the substances listed in Annex I in quantities that could compromise the product’s compliance with the requirements.
Processes and treatment
Regulation (EU) 2019/1009 also introduces requirements and procedures to be followed by manufacturers.
Particular attention is given to labelling activities, as set out in Annex III, and maximum limit values for the quantities of substances used.
These provisions aim to ensure that fertilisers meet the highest quality and safety standards.
The importance of End of Waste in waste management
There are multiple benefits to adopting End of Waste (EoW) practices with one’s production waste.
Benefits that deserve attention include both time-tested aspects and new opportunities to be explored:
- The reduction in the use of virgin raw materials.
- The possibility of introducing new materials into processes.
- The formation of a market for secondary raw materials.
- The valorisation of company waste.
- The possibility of obtaining tax benefits and incentives.
- Compliance with the Minimum Environmental Criteria (MEC).
One of the challenges of the Circular Economy is to be able to communicate clearly and effectively the benefits that this economic model can bring to companies. By investing in this aspect we can increase awareness and knowledge in people