Resource efficiency in Europe: benefits of doing more with less

Many European countries are realising the economic benefits of making more efficient use of material resources like metals, fossil fuels and minerals. But more action is needed to underpin this trend in resource efficiency with stronger policies on energy, material resources, waste management and on circular economy. These are the findings from a new European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment published

The EEA report More from less – material resource efficiency in Europe, takes an in-depth look at national approaches and policies on resource efficiency and explores similarities and differences in related policies, strategies and targets. The report builds on a survey, in which 32 of the 39 EEA member and cooperating countries took part. Countries provided detailed information on their resource efficiency polices and examples of good practice initiatives.

The main objective of the report is to encourage countries to share information and their experiences in the development of resource efficiency policies. The work contributes to broadening know-how on resource efficiency and the circular economy and increases understanding of policy approaches in these areas.

Between 2000 and 2014, resource use in the European Union as a whole fell both in absolute terms (down by 12%) and per person (from 15.5 to 13.1 tonnes per person), according to the survey. The economic benefit of improving resource efficiency is the most important driver in many countries, indicating that the logic of doing more with less has been widely embraced. The most recurrent drivers to improve efficiency were the desire to increase competitiveness, to secure the supply of raw materials and energy and reduce dependence on imports, and to lower pressures on the environment.

The report stresses that the key challenge will be to ensure that the recent gains in efficiency are sustained, and that the situation does not revert to the long-term pattern of economic growth accompanied by increasing resource use. The survey also concludes that there is room for improvement in policy design and implementation, as well as significant potential benefit in the exchange of good practice, since big differences between countries still exist.

The report and the accompanying 32 individual country profiles were produced together with the Agency’s network of member and cooperating countries, known as Eionet and the European Topic Centre on Waste and Materials in a Green Economy (ETC/WMGE).