Resource efficiency and waste
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The global environmental problems we face today are largely the result of human overexploitation of natural resources, including (fossil) fuels, minerals, water, land and biodiversity. It has become increasingly clear that Europe's prevailing model of economic development — based on high resource use, waste generation and pollution — cannot be sustained in the long term. Today, the European Union (EU) is heavily reliant on imports and we need twice the total land area of the EU to meet our resource demands. Many of the resources are only in use for a short period of time, or they are lost to the economy through being landfilled or downcycled (involving a decrease of quality during recovery operations). More
- Key facts and messages
- The number of countries recycling and composting more than 30% of municipal waste increased from 11 to 17 out of 35, and those landfilling more than 75% of their municipal waste declined from 11 to 8. more
- Generation of municipal waste per capita has declined slightly from 2004 to 2012, but it is clearly better managed now than ten years ago. more
- Europe's natural capital is under growing cumulative pressure from intensive agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and urban sprawl. A substantial volume of relevant EU legislation already exists but lacks adequate integration in sectoral policies.... more
- The demands of a growing global population with rapidly changing consumption patterns for food, mobility and energy are exerting ever-increasing pressure on the Earth's ecosystems and their life-supporting services. In combination with climate... more
- The large differences in performance indicate room for further improvement and actions to meet the 2020 target to recycle 50% of municipal waste. more
- Global use of material resources has increased ten-fold since 1900 and is set to double again by 2030. Escalating demand may jeopardise access to some essential resources and cause environmental harm. Uneven geographical distribution of some... more
- Although Europe’s pollutant releases are expected to continue declining, European ecosystems and citizens are likely to be affected by developments in other regions. For example, despite a fall in air pollutant emissions there has not been... more
- For Europe this is a major concern as its economy is structurally dependent on imports. Although growing scarcity and rising prices should incentivise investments in technologies to alleviate supply risks, such innovations will not necessarily... more
- Exacerbated by climate change and continued pollution, rates of global habitat destruction and biodiversity loss are predicted to increase, including in Europe. Continued degradation of global ecosystems and their services will influence poverty... more
- European systems of production and consumption generate diverse environmental, social and economic impacts — supporting livelihoods globally but also creating significant environmental pressures. Household consumption expenditure in Europe... more
- Forests provide a range of ecosystem services from capturing and storing carbon to providing bio-fuel, timber as well as social benefits. However, our forests, which have increased in area by 17 million hectares since 1990, face growing pressure... more
- EU-28 domestic material consumption declined by 10% between 2000 and 2012, despite a 16% increase in economic output. Environmental pressures such as waste generation and harmful emissions were also reduced. Policies have contributed to this... more
- Guided by diverse policies, European countries have improved waste management. Manufacturing and service sector waste declined by about a quarter in 2004–2012, while municipal waste generation fell 2%. Along with increased recycling, these... more
- Globally, levels of air pollution and releases of nutrients from agriculture and wastewater remain high, causing acidification and eutrophication in ecosystems, and losses in agricultural yield. In the coming decades, overall pollution levels... more
- Per capita consumption of material resources increased between 2000 and 2012 in 13 countries and decreased in 19. Significant increases were primarily due to large-scale infrastructure investments, with the largest declines related to the economic... more
- Four countries have consistently been the most resource-efficient economies, with six remaining at the bottom of resource-productivity rankings, indicating opportunities for further improvements and actions. more
- The claims on forests services are increasing. Understanding the role of more than 14 million forest owners/managers is imperative to developing balanced, sustainable policy on forest resources. more
Despite improvements in hazardous waste management, more measures would be required to prevent the build-up of hazardous waste across Europe, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) report released today. The report reviews the application of waste prevention programmes across European countries regarding waste types that are considered to be most dangerous to human health and the environment.
European countries are improving their methods to prevent household trash and other municipal waste from ending up in landfill sites. Recycling rates, in particular, have increased considerably across Europe over the past decade, due in part to European environmental policies, according to a new European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment published today.
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 today.
Last December in Paris, the world set itself an ambitious target: limiting the global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees, while aiming to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. At the G20 summit earlier this month, China and the United States announced their formal commitment to join the Paris agreement. This is a major step forward for the international effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming. Nevertheless, the current reduction commitments made so far by signatory countries are not sufficient to meet this ambitious target.
The future looks bright for renewable energy sources which are playing an increasingly important role as Europe tries to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. We talked about the opportunities and challenges ahead for clean energy with Mihai Tomescu, energy expert at the European Environment Agency.
Our current resource use is not sustainable and is putting pressure on our planet. We need to facilitate a transition towards a circular, green economy by moving beyond waste policies and focusing on eco-design, innovation and investments. Research can foster not only innovation in production, but also in business models and financing mechanisms.
In August this year, more than 190 countries reached a consensus on the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. And later this month, Heads of State will adopt this Agenda along with its Sustainable Development Goals and targets in New York. Unlike their predecessors, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are both for developing and developed countries and focus on a broader range of sustainable development topics. Many of the 17 SDGs include elements related to the environment, resource use or climate change.
The report ‘Prevention of hazardous waste in Europe – the status in 2015’ is the third in a series of annual reviews of waste prevention programmes in Europe as stipulated by the Waste Framework Directive. EU Member States are obliged to adopt waste prevention programmes, while EEA is invited to carry out review on their completion and implementation.
Environmental indicator report 2016 — In support to the monitoring of the 7th Environment Action ProgrammePublication 09 Dec 2016
This report examines if the EU and its immediate neighbours are on target to achieving by 2020 the three thematic priority objectives (natural capital; resource efficiency and low carbon economy; health and well-being) of the 7th Environment Action Programme. It does that with the help of a set of selected indicators and other information. The report also highlights the role of eco-innovation and green finance to enable meeting aspects of the resource efficiency and low carbon economy priority objective.
This report was developed in cooperation with the European Environment Information and Observation Network (Eionet) — a partnership network of the EEA and its member and cooperating countries involving more than 1 000 experts and 350 national institutions across Europe. Drawing on evidence collected from across the network, the report represents an initial attempt to explore what the concepts of sustainability transitions and transformations mean in practice, and how the EEA and Eionet can help develop the knowledge needed to support systemic change in Europe. Case studies are used to explain and illustrate key concepts and to give a sense of what activities are already under way at local levels. The report concludes with reflections from the EEA's Scientific Committee and Executive Director, which provide further insights into the new knowledge needs and the potential role of the EEA and Eionet in responding to them.
This briefing is a synthesis of the outcomes of a country-by-country analysis that addressed 32 EEA countries: EU-28 Member States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey (ETC/WMGE, 2016), complemented with some information from the Western Balkan countries.