The triple digital, energy and circular economy transition in Europe requires access to materials such as lithium, neodymium and silicon for the production of batteries, permanent magnets and semiconductors. The demand for those materials has increased steadily over the past few decades and, according to OECD, could more than quadruple by 2040 if the world gets on track to meet its climate goals1. At the same time, the supply of these materials is increasingly uncertain, amongst other things due to the war in Ukraine. For example, according to the EU’s Raw Materials Scoreboard, Ukraine and Russia are sitting on 40% of the world supply of palladium, and China has a near-monopoly on the mining, purification, refining and alloying of many of those materials. Such materials, for which the demand is going up but the supply is at risk, are called Critical Raw Materials (CRM).
Europe has experienced multiple supply chain disruptions in the past few years, most of them at least partly caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Think of the recent magnesium crisis in the automotive industry. That is the reason why extracting more of these CRMs from waste streams that are rich in them, and predicting future demand, will help to mitigate the risks associated with this uncertainty and likely supply disruptions, and reduce reliance on other countries, such as China, for their supply. The FutuRaM project – Future availability of Raw Materials – will provide intelligence on CRMs through developing the secondary raw materials knowledge base on the availability and recoverability of secondary raw materials within the EU, with a special focus on CRMs. The project research will enable fact-based decision making for the recovery and use of secondary raw materials within and outside the EU.
Importantly, and underlining the importance of avoiding supply chain disruptions and access to raw materials, a Critical Raw Materials Act is among the key new initiatives announced for 2023 by the European Commission. A legislative proposal on the supply of critical raw materials was also announced in the REPowerEU Plan (2022). The European Commission is expected to put forward a package of regulatory and non-regulatory CRM-related actions, addressing:
- the low diversification of EU supply sources,
- untapped potential of EU supply,
- weak monitoring and risk management capacity to anticipate and prevent supply disruptions of critical raw materials,
- adverse social and environmental impacts of production of critical raw materials,
- insufficient support for circularity in the existing regulatory framework,
- insufficient research and innovation in the EU.
The Commission confirmed that it would propose the Critical Raw Materials Act “to ensure an adequate and diversified supply for Europe’s digital economy as well as for the green transition – and prioritise re-use and recycling”.
FutuRaM is working closely with DG GROW, the Directorate in the European Commission that is preparing the legislative act and monitoring the issues associated with criticality metals required for the triple transition. The consortium is awaiting the publication of the Act and, through FutuRaM, will contribute to a better informed decision-making process in this domain.
FutuRaM comprises 28 partners and is led by the WEEE Forum, a world association speaking for forty-nine producer responsibility organisations that collected 2.6 million tons of electrical and electronic waste in 2022. The project has received finding through the European Commission’s Horizon Europe programme and concludes in May 2026.