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EU’s critical raw materials act: Enhancing supply security and circular economy integration

The CRMA pursues various goals. One basic goal is to increase the security of supply of primary critical raw materials. As there is little mining and production of primary CRMs in the EU, European companies depend greatly on global suppliers. For instance, Chile and Australia together currently provide about 77 per cent of the global lithium supply.

In the case of REE, there is a high dependence on a single supplier country, as 85 per cent of LREE and 100 per cent of HREE are currently imported into the EU from China.53 The EU’s strategies to achieve its goal of increasing the security of CRM supplies are building up its own raw material mining, processing and diversification of raw material sourcing.

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Embedding circular economy practices in the use of CRMs

The CRMA sets out a circular target for the first time at EU level. At least 15 per cent of the EU’s annual consumption must come from recycled materials by 2030. Furthermore, the draft legislation sets out that Member States will have 3 years to adopt and implement national programmes around circularity.

The programmes will include: increasing the collection of waste with a high CRM recovery potential; increasing the reuse of products and components; increasing the use of secondary CRMs; increasing the technological maturity of recycling technologies and promoting material efficiency and substitution; and ensuring the workforce is equipped with the skills needed.

This is a first, positive step in integrating circularity more directly into the debate around CRMs. Nonetheless, the 15 per cent target is broad, and lacks a roadmap on how to achieve this by 2030. The maturity of circular economy strategies varies greatly in different Member States, meaning that the success of national programmes will likely also vary. National programmes in some Member States may be relatively conservative, which will result in a slow transition towards circularity.

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