The Circular Economy resonates with today’s expectations to produce and consume in a more sustainable way. The adopted EU Circular Economy package including the amended Waste Framework and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directives of June 2018, is a clear step towards achieving this transition without compromising Europe’s competitiveness.
However, to move towards a true resource efficient and circular economy, it is essential to make a clear distinction between downcycling which leads to the gradual degradation of the material, and true recycling which keeps the material in the loop without losing its intrinsic material characteristics. The current approach to the circular economy oversimplifies the classification of materials and products as renewable or non-renewable, re-usable or non-reusable or even bio-degradable or non-biodegradable.
These classifications are insufficient for the development of good practices in sustainable resource management: it fails to account for material degradation and its impact on resource management.
In this respect, aluminium can claim to be a material with "permanent" characteristics or properties, to be abbreviated as “permanent material”, one for which the inherent properties do not change during use and following repeated recycling into new products. Obviously used aluminium has to be collected and sorted properly, in order to make it available for its next use phase. Today’s end-of-life recycling rates are already high: above 90% in construction and transport and 65% in packaging.