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Waste and recycling



Today more than ever, the European Commission is working hard to preserve our limited resources. In 2004, it launched the Thematic Strategy on Prevention and Recycling of Waste. This long-term strategy aims at helping Europe to become a recycling society that avoids waste and uses any unavoidable waste as a resource.



plastic waste

On 2 December 2015, the Commission adopted an ambitious new Circular Economy Package to boost competitiveness, create jobs and generate sustainable growth. One of the key actions of this package was to produce a revised Regulation on Fertilisers, for which a proposal was presented on 17 March 2016.

The proposed revised Fertilisers Regulation would see an expansion of its scope to other fertilising product categories than the currently regulated ones (mineral fertilisers, liming materials, agronomic additives). Hence, it would provide an opportunity to make the recovery of nutrients from waste and other non-traditional sources a more attractive business across Europe.

In view of this wider scope, the Commission has taken the initiative to develop possible process and product criteria for secondary raw materials that could be used in the production of fertilising products.

In this context, the Commission has established a dedicated Technical Working Group that will provide non-binding expert advice to the European Commission on possible recovery rules for nutrients from eligible materials into recovered phosphate salts, ash-based materials or pyrolysis materials. The JRC has published on May 24 an Interim Report for consultation and review by Technical Working Group that contains draft proposals for the nutrient recovery rules.


Extractive waste

plastic waste

By coordinating the information exchange between stakeholders from industries, Members States and environmental NGOs, the JRC DIR.B - Growth and Innovation provides the Commission with BREFS, short for Reference documents containing information on the Best Available Techniques, and thus contributes to environmental protection and a sustainable development of the industrial sector.

In 2014-2017, SUSPROC will carry out the review process of the BREF on the Management of tailings and Waste-rock in mining activities (MTWR BREF).

The Directive on the management of waste from extractive industries (the so-called "Mining Waste Directive, 2006/21/EC) requires that mining and quarry operators take all measures necessary to prevent or reduce any adverse environmental or human health effects related to the management of extractive waste. The first MTWR BREF was published in 2009, with most of the work performed in the time period 2001-2004. Since then, new technological developments have seen the light and new challenges have arisen in an enlarged EU. Therefore, the European Commission has now launched the process of reviewing and adapting the MTWR BREF.

Contrary to other BREF documents, managed by the European IPPC Bureau , the MTWR BREF is not subject to the Directive on industrial emissions (IED, 2010/75/EU). Nonetheless, the review process of the MTWR BREF will be based on the proven "Seville process", developed by the JRC DIR.B - Growth and Innovation to guide the elaboration and review of BREF documents.

A Technical Working Group (TWG) comprising technical experts of the mining and extractive sector representing Member States, industries and environmental NGOs has been reactivated. Members of the IED Forum and Technical Adaption Committee (TAC) of the Mining Waste Directive have nominated their TWG experts as of 16 December 2013.

On 17 December 2013, SUSPROC has collected TWG expert positions on the MTWR BREF review through the BATIS electronic platform and guided by a position paper. These positions were discussed at the Kick-Off Meeting (KOM) held in Seville on 22 May 2014. The TWG reached a common agreement on the scope and the time frame for the review of the MTWR BREF. Furthermore, it has been decided to collect site specific data and information through a dedicated questionnaire.

On 02 March 2015 the questionnaire was finalised and distributed within the TWG for further release among operators willing to participate in the data and information collection exercise on consumptions and emissions from the management of extractive waste, as well as on Best Available Techniques used in the sector.

On 2 September 2015, the Questionnaire exercise finished with 88 questionnaires collected with information on the management of waste from the mining, quarrying and on-shore oil & gas extractive industries. TWG Members were then given until the end of September 2015 to cross-check the completed questionnaires.

The JRC DIR.B - Growth and Innovation has analysed all data and information received from the TWG, through the questionnaires and other channels. This input has served to elaborate the draft review of the MTWR BREF. This draft review document is called the 'Draft BREF on the Management of Waste from the Extractive Industries (MWEI BREF)', in order to better reflect the agreed changes between the scope of the former MTWR BREF and the new document.

The MWEI BREF Draft was issued on 28 June 2016. The deadline to receive comments was 1st November 2016.
After the JRC DIR.B assessed all the comments received on the MWEI BREF Draft, the Final TWG Meeting was held in Seville on 27 November 2017. This meeting concluded the technical discussions and following editing, verification and proofreading, the final MWEI BREF document was published in December 2018.

Last updated: 18 December 2018



plastic waste

SUSPROC has been supporting the Directorate General (DG) for Environment in the elaboration and implementation of the Thematic Strategy on Prevention and Recycling of Waste since 2004. This long-term strategy aims to help Europe become a recycling society that avoids waste and uses any unavoidable waste as a resource.


Linked to this, since 2008 SUSPROC has collaborated closely with DG Environment in the implementation of the mechanism of end-of-waste criteria, introduced by Article 6 of the Waste Framework Directive of December 2008. The objective of end-of-waste criteria is to remove the administrative burdens of waste legislation for safe and high-quality waste materials, thereby facilitating recycling. The objective is achieved by requiring high material quality of recyclables, promoting product standardisation and quality assurance, and improving harmonisation and legal certainty in the recyclable material markets.


End-of-waste criteria – general methodology and analysis for waste stream selection


The Waste Framework Directive contains specific provisions to define end-of-waste criteria. In this context, from 2005–2008 SUSPROC carried out a scientific analysis of different waste streams that are candidates to being considered end-of-waste, and developed a methodology for determining end-of-waste criteria, based on a number of case studies. The outcome of this work was presented in two main reports:



  • 'End-of-waste criteria, methodology and case studies'. This report presents a general methodology and guidelines analysing the principles according to which the criteria should be set up and provided the related analytical and impact assessment frameworks required to determine end-of-waste criteria. Three case studies - for aluminium & steel scrap, aggregates and compost - were conducted in this context, and are annexed to the report.

End-of-waste criteria – studies on specific recyclable waste materials


The Commission is establishing end-of-waste criteria for a number of specific recyclable materials including metal scrap of copper, aluminium and iron, waste paper, waste glass, compost, and plastics. Since 2008, SUSPROC has prepared for DG Environment a series of technical studies proposing end-of-waste criteria on these materials, using the above mentioned methodology. The studies are the result of intense consultations with experts in a technical working group, and consist of thorough techno-economic-environmental assessments that help verify when a recyclable waste material is safe for the environment and has a high enough quality to merit being released from the waste regime. The technical working group for each waste material is established with representatives of Member States, and stakeholders of industry and academia


The preparation of the technical studies is scheduled in stages, as detailed below.


Two frontrunner studies were completed in 2010 on ferrous scrap and aluminium scrap:

Based on the results of these studies, the first EoW Regulation (333/2011) was adopted and entered into force in 2011. 

Since then, technical studies on waste paper, copper and copper alloy scrap, waste glass (glass cullet), biodegradable waste and waste plastic have been concluded:

So far, these studies have led to the development of following Regulations now in force:

The Commission may in the future develop end-of-waste criteria on additional streams such as plastics, aggregates, and waste-derived fuels.

For getting a better insight into the feasibility of these materials for receiving end-of-waste status, JRC DIR.B - Growth and Innovation launched two studies in 2010.

  • Study on the suitability of different waste-derived fuels for end-of-waste status (close to finalisation):

In addition to the studies above, Directorate B - Growth and Innovation has analysed possible methodological approaches to monitoring the degree of uptake of end-of-waste in the EU, following the introduction of the first regulation on ferrous and aluminium scrap, EU Regulation 333/2011.

Please note that JRC DIR.B - Growth and Innovation support to DG Environment in the end-of-waste process is currently limited to the provision of technical proposals of criteria. DG Environment handles the overall policy making process, inter alia the comitology procedure. For more information on the policy making side of the Waste Framework Directive, see DG Environment's dedicated website.

View past projects in the field of waste and recycling.

Last updated: 03 March 2015

As the science and knowledge service of the European Commission, the Joint Research Centre's mission is to support EU policies with independent evidence throughout the whole policy cycle.