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You are here: Home / Environmental topics / Waste and material resources

Waste and material resources

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Waste is a pressing environmental, social and economic issue. Increasing consumption and a developing economy continue to generate large amounts of waste - with more effort required to reduce and prevent it. While waste was viewed as disposable in the past, today it is increasingly recognised as a resource; this is reflected in the waste management shift away from disposal towards recycling and recovery. More

Key facts and messages
Natural resources and waste — Environmental regulation and eco-innovation have increased resource efficiency through a relative decoupling of resource use, emissions and waste generation from economic growth in some areas. However, absolute... more
Europe, like much of the industrialized world, is using an increasing amount of materials. The EU-27 average annual use of material resources is some 16 tonnes per person. On average, about six tonnes of waste per person are generated each year... more
Resource use and waste generation in the EU-27 have been decoupled from economic growth. However, in most countries resource use and waste generation still increase in absolute figures. Although resource efficiency continues to improve, the... more
The overall trend in waste generation, including hazardous waste, is upwards. The 6th EAP objective of substantially reducing waste generation has neither been achieved nor is likely to be met in the coming decades unless production and consumption... more
The management of waste has improved, with many countries recycling and recovering more, but more efforts are needed if the EU is to become a 'recycling society'. Implementation of existing legislation remains crucial, especially on the illegal... more
The environmental pressures of Europe's consumption and production patterns, potentially resulting in damage to ecosystems and human health impacts, spread far beyond its borders. Most outlooks predict continued growth in the use of material... more
Policy has only recently begun to address the challenges of the growing use of resources. Most actions taken to date do not comprehensively address the upstream causes of growth, focusing instead on the downstream consequences. As yet, there... more
Implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, together with comparable non-EU legislation, has led to improvements in wastewater treatment across much of the continent. This has resulted in reduced point discharges of nutrients... more
Europe's economy is heavily dependent on imported raw materials — in 2011 approximately 1 600 million tonnes of raw materials were imported into Europe – that’s about 3.2 tonnes per person. Fuels accounted for most of this amount. more
The European economy generates more than five tonnes of waste, including hazardous waste, per inhabitant each year, and each citizen throws on average half a tonne of household waste into the bin. more
More jobs at higher income levels are created by recycling than compared to landfilling or incinerating waste. Overall employment related to the recycling of materials in European countries increased by 45 % between 2000 and 2007. more
One-person households consume, on average, 38 % more products, 42 % more packaging and 55 % more electricity per person than four-person households. more
Consumption of bottled water has risen markedly in many European countries. The EU average was 105 litres per person in 2009 and varied from 16 litres in Finland to 189 litres in Italy. Energy is used in the manufacturing and transportation... more
In 2008, eco-industry in the EU-27 countries had a turnover of 319 billion EUR, accounted for 2.5 % of EU GDP, and employed 3.4 million people. more
An average European citizen uses about four times more resources than one in Africa and three times more than one in Asia, but half of that in the Unites States, Canada or Australia. more
It is estimated that the generation of waste electrical and electronic equipment will increase by roughly 11 % between 2008 and 2014 across the EU-27 countries, Norway and Switzerland, mainly due to rapid technological advancement accompanied... more
There are large variations in the amounts of packaging waste between countries, ranging from 41 kg per person in Bulgaria to 245 kg per person in Ireland. more
Of the 8.2 billion tonnes of materials consumed in EU-27 countries in 2007, minerals accounted for 52 %, fossil fuels for 23 %, biomass for 21 % and metals for 4 %. more
A city affects a large area outside its own boundaries. For example, London alone is thought to need an area of almost 300 times its geographical size to satisfy its demands and for disposal of its waste and emissions. more
Recycling can meet a large proportion of the economy’s resources demand, alleviating pressure on ecosystems to provide resources and assimilate waste. Recycling already meets substantial proportions of demand for some resource groups, notably... more

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