New report sheds light on wide ranging benefits of EU waste policy

An ambitious waste policy in Europe would help create more jobs by 2025  than the European Commission claims would be generated from its trade agreement with the US, according to a new report from the European Environmental Bureau. ‘Advancing Resource Efficiency in Europe’ points to the potential of creating 750,000 new jobs by 2025, and 860,000 by 2030, if the EU adopts ambitious new policies and targets for the prevention and recycling of waste as part of its upcoming Waste Targets Review .

Using data available in the public domain and conservative estimates, the report finds that a scenario for EU resource efficiency, involving ambitious targets for food waste reduction, re-use of textiles and furniture, and recycling, could help prevent the equivalent of around 415 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030. This equates to taking 4 in 10 cars off European roads. A strong policy in food waste reduction could also help avoid cropland use of 57,000 km² by 2030 – an area larger than Croatia.

Piotr Barczak, the EEB’s Waste Policy Officer, commented: “This report underlines the massive potential for advancing resource efficiency in Europe. If the EU is ambitious, it could help create work for one in every six currently unemployed, young Europeans. It underlines that good environmental policies create jobs – and lots of them.”

The report comes out as the Commission is finalising a major Waste Targets Review that is expected to align key targets in upcoming legislation with goals outlined in its overarching strategy document – the Resource Efficiency Roadmap. The EEB recommends adopting the range of indicators used in this report – material use, land, water and carbon – at EU level, to identify and measure the positive role waste policy plays in becoming more resource efficient.

The EEB calls on the European Commission to limit overall disposal and energy recovery options – particularly incineration – of all biodegradable waste and to set specific targets for preferable options within the waste hierarchy , such as waste prevention, re-use and recycling.

The EEB’s Senior Policy Officer for Waste and Products, Stéphane Arditi, said: “Landfill bans alone will be insufficient if we want to create a resource-efficient Europe. We need clear direction towards options further up the waste hierarchy that also move away from incineration.”

Member States have a number of levers at their disposal to meet the ambitious scenario outlined in this study. These include tax incentives for recycled or re-used goods, levies on disposed products, variable charging schemes for households, such as Pay As You Throw, and reinforced Extended Producer Responsibility. These should be set and combined in an appropriate way so as to make more environmentally-friendly options in the waste hierarchy more attractive for producers, consumers and municipalities.