Waste Prevention

From plastic to electronic scrap, waste is on the rise. This raises several environmental and societal concerns requiring EU governments to move beyond our throwaway society.

Only 30% of EU household waste was recycled in 2017, while 17% was composted, 28% incinerated and 24% buried in dumpsites (Eurostat 2019)

Europe is not prepared to deal properly with the increasing amounts of waste. Too much waste still ends up in toxic dumpsites and incinerators. Countries like China have stopped taking in the scrap we can’t recycle, and the spread of hazardous substances contained in discarded goods present significant risk for human health.

There is only one way out of this: we must avoid waste. Ensuring our products are made to last and be reused is priority, with recycling the answer when prevention is not possible. To make this approach most effective, waste prevention needs to be addressed at the design stage of products and all along the consumption chain – from purchasing to discarding.

Prevention and recycling could together save EU citizens billions of euro while reducing our carbon footprint and providing job opportunities.

Introducing Europe’s new waste laws

EU governments and institutions agreed on a comprehensive strategy to prevent household waste and boost recycling.

All countries are required to:

  • Recycle 55% of household waste by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035
  • Recycle 70% of all packaging – including plastic, paper, aluminum and other materials
  • Implement a 10% cap on landfill by 2035
  • Implement stricter and more consistent methods to calculate progress made towards recycling

All countries must put in place new measures by July 2020 to help them achieve these targets. These include mandatory separate collection of household waste – paper, plastic, glass, metals, textiles, hazardous waste and organic waste -, as well as schemes to make producers pay for the collection and recycling of their products and a ban on the incineration and burying of waste collected for recycling or composting.

The EU also recommends the introduction of non-binding measures and economic incentives to boost waste prevention. These include landfill and incineration taxes as well as schemes to boost packaging reuse and to ensure consumers are refunded a small fee once they return a container for recycling.

Targets and measures mentioned here are, alongside several other requirements, part of four major EU directives: the Waste Framework Directive, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the Landfill Directive and the Single-Use Plastics Directive.

If you want to learn more about these measures, check out our timeline for their implementation across the EU or drop us an email.

Rethinking Plastic

In Europe, people have stood up to counter plastic pollution.

Plastic has become the symbol of our throw-away society and has been linked to several major problems including marine litter and the collapse of entire ecosystems.

In January 2018, the European Commission released Europe’s first-ever strategy targeting single-use plastic items and vowed to make all plastic packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030.

The EEB, along with other members of the Rethink Plastic Alliance, will be at the forefront of the fight against plastic pollution in the coming months.

560000 jobs

could be created by increasing recycling

less than 50 %

of waste is recycled in the EU

Library for Waste Prevention