Belgium to push 'sustainable materials' initiative

Brussels (EurActiv) - The Belgian
EU Presidency wants to clean up industrial processes in Europe by
promoting a “cradle-to-cradle” approach to resource management in
the manufacturing sector, EurActiv has learned.

Meeting in Ghent on 12-13 July, EU environment ministers will
debate a study by the Belgian EU Presidency on “sustainable
materials management” (SMM).

The study, obtained by EurActiv, advocates “a fully integrated
way of addressing materials use” in manufacturing in order to limit
resource depletion and air, soil and water pollution.

“If we carry on using materials the way
we are now, this will ultimately result in the depletion of raw
materials and harm the environment,” the Belgian EU Presidency

The objective is to move from waste policies to “materials
policies,” which cover the full life-cycle of products and
manufactured goods, from the extraction of raw materials to product
design, manufacture, consumption and disposal.

“A policy that is limited to waste prevention and recycling is
insufficient to significantly reduce Europe’s [ecological]
footprint and avoid a further depletion of natural capital,” the
study argues.

As an alternative, the Belgian EU Presidency wants to promote
the concept of “sustainable materials management,” a broader notion
which covers the whole life-cycle of products in a so-called
“cradle-to-cradle” approach.

“SMM, as the Belgian Presidency wants to promote it, aims at the
efficient and environmentally responsible use of materials,
independent of whether they are raw materials, products or waste,”
reads an introduction to the study.

European ‘platform’ to explore way forward

At the Ghent ministerial meeting, Belgium will propose to
establish a “European platform on sustainable materials management”
that would be tasked with developing a “joint future vision on

“That’s new on the European agenda. It is the first time we have
discussed about that,” said a high-level source in Belgium. “We
want Council conclusions which can be useful for 2011,” when the
European Commission is expected to adopt a roadmap on resource
efficiency, the official added.

When established, the platform will “launch experiments which go
beyond established practices” in areas such as waste collection and
recycling, re-use and repair or recovery of industrial

In total, the study has identified twelve areas where the SMM
approach could be applied, including closed loop industry systems
for residues (of construction waste for example), biomaterials,
cradle-to-cradle or IT systems that track the logistics supply
chain. “IT can give enterprises tools to effectively manage supply
chains and to monitor the product and material flow up- and
downstream, in turn allowing for material savings,” the study

‘Scattered’ EU policy framework

To remedy the current “scattered” EU policy landscape, the study
advocates a realignment of all EU initiatives on waste, natural
resources, raw materials, integrated product policy, eco-design and
sustainable consumption and production.

“Policymakers in different policy fields - such
as environment, energy, climate, innovation and economics - have to
work together more intensively to make our material use more
sustainable,” the Belgian Presidency argues.

It also argues for better integration of sustainable materials
management with broader policy areas such as agriculture,
competitiveness and innovation.

“At EU level, structures should be set up to allow for
systematic and institutionalised cooperation on SMM challenges,
both within the European Commission and in the Council.”


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