Waste prevention

Preventing waste is a top priority of waste policy in the European Union with potential economic and environmental benefits. A new European Environment Agency (EEA) report reviews the state of play in the EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The EEA report ‘Waste prevention in Europe’ shows that by the end of 2013, 18 of 31 countries had adopted waste prevention programmes as required by the EU Waste Framework Directive. The EEA will regularly assess waste prevention programmes under this legislation.

These programmes show considerable differences in detail, coverage, objectives and time horizon. Most waste prevention programmes mention the aim of ‘decoupling’ waste generation from economic growth, but quantitative targets and corresponding monitoring schemes are often lacking. The majority (60%) are concerned with information and awareness-raising, while regulatory or economic policy instruments are mentioned less frequently (17%).

Waste prevention is the top aim of European policy’s ‘waste hierarchy’ which lists waste management objectives in order of descending priority. If waste cannot be prevented, it should be reused or prepared for reuse, recycled, incinerated with energy recovery, or disposed of in landfill, if no other option is available. Europe aims to move up this hierarchy. By 2020 waste generation should be in absolute decline, according to the EU’s Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe. [pdf,181kB]

The current findings suggest that the variety of national initiatives leaves substantial room for improvement. Additional efforts would be most beneficial with regard to target setting, monitoring and the funding of upstream prevention measures.