Waste production represents a significant economic loss

WasteTwo billions of tonnes of waste is produced in Europe every year and represents a significant economic loss.

  • Waste prevention lies at the centre of the European Union’s policies on waste and Member States have a legal obligation to adopt and implement waste prevention programmes.
  • The overarching principle behind EU and national waste policies is the ‘waste hierarchy’. Waste prevention has the highest priority in the hierarchy followed by (preparing for) reuse, recycling, other recovery and disposal as the least desirable option.

To this end, The EU Waste Framework Directive set the obligation for Member States to adopt waste prevention programmes by the end of 2013. The EEA reviews annually the progress towards the ‘completion and implementation of the programmes’. The 7th Environment Action Programme also calls for a reduction of waste generated in absolute terms and per person.

The EEA report ‘Waste prevention in Europe – the status in 2014’ is the second in this series of annual reviews of waste prevention programmes in Europe.

  • The EEA report shows that waste prevention programmes show great variety in details, coverage, objectives, time horizons, targets, indicators, monitoring systems, measures and policy instruments.
  • The majority of the programmes address food/organic waste, municipal/household waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment, packaging waste and hazardous waste.
  • Most programmes mention the overall objective of breaking the link between economic growth and the environmental impact associated with the generation of waste.
  • Improving material efficiency, resource efficiency, decoupling of resource use from economic growth and preventing the use of primary materials are listed in several programmes.
  • The reduction of harmful substances is included in more than half of the programmes.
  • Quantitative targets ranging from total waste generated to more specific targets for particular sectors or waste types with different baseline and target years are identified.
  • Indicators are specified for tracking progress on objectives and targets and, ultimately, on the effectiveness of waste prevention policies.

To consolidate the overarching framework for waste policy and resource efficiency policies, the European Commission has adopted the Circular economy package on 2 December 2015.

  • The package sets out a number of measures across product design, production and consumption that can be expected to contribute to the prevention of waste.
  • In addition, it puts specific obligations on EU Member States to reduce food waste and to introduce monitoring of waste prevention programmes.

Source: EEA