Waste prevention in Europe - the status in 2013
The Waste Framework Directive sets a legal obligation for European Union (EU) Member States to adopt waste prevention programmes by 12 December 2013. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has been asked to review the progress of the 'completion and implementation of the programmes' annually (EU, 2008). This report presents a first review of waste prevention programmes across Europe.
The waste hierarchy, the guiding framework in EU and national waste policies, gives the highest priority to waste prevention, followed by (preparing for) re-use, recycling, other recovery and disposal. This is reflected in the targets of the Waste Framework Directive (EEC, 1975, revised 2008) and 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 (7th EAP) (EU, 2013) also recognise the need for waste prevention. The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe states that by 2020 waste generation should be in decline. The recent Communication from the European Commission, Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe, goes further. It proposes a non-binding target for a reduction in food waste of at least 30 % by 2025, in addition to the development, inter alia, of national food waste prevention strategies (EC, 2014).
This publication is the first in a series of reviews by EEA of the waste prevention programmes in Europe. The review process covers programmes in the 28 EU Member States and three European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. This first review covers the 20 national and regional programmes (1) that had been adopted by the end of 2013. Completion of remaining programmes and implementation efforts will be captured in future reviews.
Recognising the variation between national approaches, a flexible analysis method has been applied. On the basis of the national/regional waste prevention programmes, harmonised country/ region 'abstracts' have been prepared that facilitate cross-programme comparison. The comparison includes waste prevention programmes' coverage, overall objectives, scope, and targets, indicators, and monitoring systems as the measures to evaluate set objectives and targets. General analysis of the measures and related policy instruments is supported by selected good practice examples from each country and region.
The currently available data do not yet allow an assessment of actual progress in waste prevention at European or national/regional levels. Future reviews will have to be extended to cover concrete implementation measures and their results.
- twenty national and regional waste prevention programmes in 18 countries (out of 31) were adopted by the end of 2013;
- waste prevention programmes show considerable differences in detail, coverage, objectives and time horizon (four years to indefinite);
- twelve programmes are dedicated programmes while others are part of wider waste management plans;
- ten programmes include an 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 nine programmes, while for implementation the number is twice as high;
- financial resources are rarely addressed in the programmes.
- Waste prevention objectives — the overall objective of decoupling waste generation from economic growth is mentioned in the majority of programmes. Some also target the reduction of harmful substances as part of their overall objectives. Job creation (Hungary) and the development of new business models (England and Wales) are part of the general objectives in three programmes.
- Waste prevention scope — programmes cover a variety of sectors and waste types. All cover households and the public service sector, whereas only a few programmes include the agriculture, and mining and raw material sectors. This limited sectoral coverage might be because they are covered by other policy areas or are the responsibility of other institutions. In terms of waste types, municipal/household waste, food waste, construction and demolition waste, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), packaging waste and hazardous waste are covered by a majority of the programmes.
- Quantitative waste prevention targets — eleven of the analysed programmes include quantitative targets ranging from total waste generated to more specific targets for specific sectors or waste types. A few countries have expressed a reluctance to define targets, citing a lack of reliable and relevant data as the reason. The review does not analyse the qualitative targets.
- Waste prevention indicators — seventeen programmes include indicators as a means of tracking progress on objectives and targets, and ultimately the effectiveness of waste prevention policies. Comparing the specific indicators chosen by the countries/regions with the objectives mentioned in the programmes, it appears that only a few countries propose indicators to monitor all their objectives.
- Monitoring systems for targets and indicators are included in seven programmes. In some cases, monitoring systems are covered in other documents.
- Waste prevention measures — the analysis shows a broad range of measures planned to support waste prevention according to Annex IV of the Waste Framework Directive. Most, 51 %, focus on the design, production and distribution phase; 39 % are related to the consumption and use phase; while 10 % focus on the general framework of waste generation.
- Policy instruments — the classification of the measures according to policy instrument shows that most, 60 %, are concerned with information and awareness raising; regulatory and economic instruments account for 17 % and 16 %, respectively; and voluntary agreements 7 %.
These elements will guide future waste prevention reviews. The review process is expected to grow in future to make links between trends in waste generation and its key socio-economic drivers with waste prevention objectives as well as include country/region-wide implementation efforts by waste type or waste-generating sector. Future reviews may also focus on some specific areas, providing more detailed analysis for selected waste types/sectors/measures, such as food waste for which an overall reduction target has been proposed. There will also be efforts made to identify examples of niche innovations in waste prevention practices.