Investigating Europe's secondary raw material markets

Malin zu Castell-Rudenhausen, Margareta Wahlström, Dirk Nelen, Yoko Dams, Susanna Paleari, Roberto Zoboli, Henning Wilts, Ioannis Bakas

Research output: Book/ReportReport


Key messages: Secondary raw material (SRM) markets are key to delivering a circular economy in the EU. These markets can ensure the timely circulation of good‑quality recycled materials in the European economy, which minimises the need to extract natural resources as a result. This report develops a new framework for assessingSRM market functionality. Of the eight SRM markets assessed under this framework, only three are well‑functioning (aluminium, paper and glass). These markets were established a long time ago, are international and open, and occupy a significant market share of their respective material supply. Five assessed SRM markets (wood, plastics, biowaste, aggregates from construction and demolition waste, and textiles) are not well‑functioning. The main reasons are their small size, weak demand (even with increasing supply) and inadequate technical specifications. Despite the strong policy push to increase recycling and the steady supply of recyclates that has resulted from this, the supply side of SRM markets is challenged. The main problems are insufficient specifications such as the end‑of‑waste criteria, and the presence of hazardous substances in recycled materials. The demand side, on the other hand, is characterised by a lack of trust in SRMs. There is hesitance to invest in technologies that would integrate SRMs into raw material supply operations. A cross-cutting issue impacting market functionality is the lack of adequate information for interested stakeholders, and the absence of a monitoring mechanism to observe the market and propose improvements. There are a few pathways to help SRM markets function more smoothly. These include expanding or modifying existing policy tools at the EU level; for example, by including fee eco-modulation in extended producer responsibility schemes. Otherwise, pathways include extending the use of green public procurement; making recycling targets more effective or expanding them to more waste materials; further developing end-of waste criteria; and widening the scope of recycled content requirements. Entirely new policy measures also help. For instance, further developing harmonised, EU-wide technical standards for SRMs could be beneficial. It would also be helpful to create a level playing field for primary and secondary raw materials by considering environmental externalities through taxing primary raw materials or reducing the VAT on SRMs.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherEuropean Environment Agency (EAA)
Number of pages66
ISBN (Electronic)978-92-9480520-1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2022
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

Publication series

SeriesEEA Report


  • raw material
  • Europe's raw material


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