Waste prevention in Europe — the status in 2014

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This publication is part of a series of reviews by the European Environment Agency (EEA) of waste prevention programmes in Europe. The review process covers programmes in the 28 European Union (EU) Member States and the three European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (Table 2.1). This second review covers the 27 national and regional programmes (1) that had been adopted by the end of 2014.

The Waste Framework Directive (EEC, 1975, revised 2008) set a legal obligation for EU Member States to adopt waste prevention programmes by 12 December 2013. The EEA has been invited to review annually the progress towards the 'completion and implementation of the programmes' (EU, 2008).

The waste hierarchy, the guiding framework for EU and national waste policies, gives the highest priority to waste prevention, followed by (preparing for) reuse, recycling, other recovery and disposal. This is reflected in the targets of the Waste Framework Directive and in the Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste (EC, 2005). Related EU policies such as the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (EC, 2011) and the EU's 7th Environment Action Programme (EU, 2013) also recognise the need for waste prevention. The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe states that waste generation should be in decline by 2020.

A new overarching framework for waste policy and resource efficiency is emerging, as the European Commission (EC) presented an ambitious Circular Economy Package on 2 December 2015. The aim of this package is to transform Europe into a more competitive sustainable resource efficient economy, addressing a range of economic sectors, including waste. It is fully aligned with the priorities of the EC, and implemented in line with the jobs and growth agenda. A stronger emphasis on the reuse, repair, refurbishing, re‑manufacturing and recycling of existing materials and products is accentuated (EC, 2015a).

As for the report published in 2014, the analysis of waste prevention initiatives is based on harmonised country/region 'abstracts', which facilitate cross‑programme comparison. The comparison includes the coverage of waste prevention programmes, as well as the scope, overall objectives, targets, indicators, monitoring systems as well as the approach to evaluating objectives and targets. A general analysis of the measures and related policy instruments is supported by selected examples of good practice from each country and region. In addition, links and synergies between the ongoing EEA waste prevention reviews and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) process on the review of waste prevention policies in OECD countries have been established in the report.

The actual results of the waste prevention programmes cannot yet be assessed. Future waste prevention reviews will include information on implementation and will also attempt to link actual waste generation with key socio-economic drivers, waste prevention objectives and targets. Future reviews may also focus on specific areas, providing more detailed analyses of selected waste types/sectors/measures, such as food waste, hazardous waste, construction and demolition waste or reuse systems. Efforts will also be made to identify examples of niche innovations in waste prevention practices.

Key findings

  • General:
    • Twenty-seven national and regional waste prevention programmes in 24 countries (out of 31) were adopted by the end of 2014;
    • waste prevention programmes show considerable differences in detail, coverage, objectives and time horizons (four years to indefinite);
    • seventeen programmes are dedicated programmes, whereas ten are part of wider waste management plans;
    • twelve programmes include evaluation at least every sixth year as required by the Waste Framework Directive; some include the production of regular progress reports;
    • stakeholders have been involved in the development of 13 programmes, whereas 23 programmes indicate their involvement in the implementation phase;
    • financial resources are rarely addressed in the programmes.
  • Waste prevention scope: The programmes cover a variety of sectors and waste types. All cover households and all but one cover the public service sector, whereas only a few programmes include the agriculture and mining and raw material processing sectors. This limited sectoral coverage might be because they are covered by other policy areas or because they are the responsibility of other institutions. In terms of waste types, food/organic waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and batteries, packaging waste, hazardous waste and municipal/household waste are covered by the majority of the programmes. In one programme (Poland), waste from thermal processes for energy generation was mentioned.
  • Waste prevention objectives: Most programmes mention the overall objective of decoupling waste generation from economic growth. Improving material efficiency and resource efficiency, decoupling resource use from economic growth and preventing the use of primary materials are listed in several programmes. An explicit objective to shift towards a circular economy is mentioned in two programmes (the Netherlands and Scotland). Programmes also target the reduction of harmful substances as part of their overall objectives. Job creation, development of new business models and behavioural change are also mentioned in several programmes.
  • Quantitative waste prevention targets: A total of 17 of the programmes analysed include quantitative targets ranging from total waste generated to more specific targets for particular sectors and waste types with a range of time horizons. A few countries have expressed a reluctance to define targets, citing a lack of reliable and relevant data.
  • Waste prevention indicators: Twenty-four programmes specify indicators for tracking progress on objectives and targets and, ultimately, on the effectiveness of waste prevention policies. A comparison of the specific indicators chosen by the countries/regions with the objectives and targets mentioned in their programmes reveals that only a few propose indicators to monitor all their objectives and targets.
  • Monitoring systems: Ten programmes include monitoring systems. In some cases, monitoring is covered in other documents than waste prevention programmes.
  • Waste prevention measures: The analysis highlights a broad range of planned measures to support waste prevention in accordance with Annex IV of the Waste Framework Directive. A total of 39% focus on the design, production and distribution phase; 40% are related to the consumption and use phase; and 21% focus on the general framework of waste generation.
  • Policy instruments: 63% of the measures concern information and awareness raising; economic and regulatory instruments account for 16% and 14%, respectively; and 7% voluntary agreements.

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