European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella has suggested that materials intended for recycling in China could be kept in the EU.
The Commissioner made the suggestion in a speech to the European Commission organised Closing the Loop conference in Brussels.
He said: “The EU now exports about 9.5 million tonnes of waste to China mainly involving paper, copper and plastic. These materials could also be useful for the European economy.
“Collaborating with China and other emerging economies and understanding these flows better is essential.”
In his speech, he also set out his view on how the circular economy can benefit Europe.
He said: “In Europe today, there are already over 4 million people working for eco-industries. And the green economy sector has been extremely resilient.
“In fact, it has kept growing and creating new jobs through the economic crisis. Currently, European businesses supply a third of the global market for green technologies: we are market leaders.
“This market is worth a trillion euros and is expected to double in under five years.
“If the EU is leading in this sector, this is due of course to the good performance of our businesses, and we will hear about their experience a lot today [at the conference].
“This is also due to our research and innovation and to our investments. Finally, this is due to the right regulatory environment, the good mix between incentives and policies, in particular the ambitious goals and targets the EU has set itself in the field of waste, of energy, and of water management.
“This is why, in the Commission’s new approach to the circular economy we have an ambitious waste management policy, reflecting country specific needs.
“We are working on clear long term targets, and ambitious recycling goals. “Fundamental to this is the smarter use of raw materials. Smarter design allowing products to be repaired, re-used, remanufactured and then recycled once more, should become the norm.”
He added that in the waste sector alone, 400,000 new jobs will be created by 2020 in Europe and increase the annual turnover of the waste sector by €4.2 billion (£3 billion).
The Commissioner also said: “I am quite taken with the idea that good waste policy means we can have tomorrow’s products and services at today’s prices, in spite of price increases in raw materials.”