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 decoupling remains a challenge, especially for households.... 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 in the EU-27. Demand for materials has long exceeded... 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 growth of material productivity has for decades been... 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 patterns are transformed. 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 shipments of waste, illegal or sub-standard landfilling,... 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 resources both in the EU and globally, with key waste... 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 are no broadly accepted and robust methods for measuring... 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 and organic pollution to freshwater bodies. 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 of the bottles and many are made from plastic derived... 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 by reduced prices. 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 paper and cardboard, and iron and steel. more
Austria, Germany and Belgium recycled the largest proportion of municipal waste in Europe in 2010. Although some countries have rapidly increased recycling rates, Europe is still wasting vast quantities of valuable resources by sending them to landfill, and many countries risk falling short of legally binding recycling targets.
The consumption and production of goods and services is currently unsustainable in Europe, with ‘decoupling’ of environmental pressures from economic growth insufficient to date. A new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) describes methods for quantifying environmental pressures caused by European consumption patterns and economic production sectors. These methods can help target decoupling actions.
Waste is increasingly moving across EU borders, for recovery or disposal. This is true for waste shipments between EU countries, and also transfers of waste outside the EU, according to a new assessment from the European Environment Agency (EEA).
This week the Rio de Janeiro summit on sustainable development will open. Rio+20 is an opportunity to look back at changes in our environment since the first Earth Summit in 1992, and also a time to look to the future, re-evaluating the way our economies and our societies depend on the environment and natural resources.
Humanity’s growing appetite for bigger houses, overseas travel, food and consumer goods is the main cause of our most pressing environmental problems, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) which considers the links between the environment and consumption.
Demand for materials is so intense that between 20 and 30 % of the resources we use in Europe are now imported. With the boom in international trade, EU consumption and production damage ecosystems and human health far beyond Europe’s borders, according to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
Recycling has multiple benefits for many areas of the economy – providing raw materials, creating jobs and encouraging business opportunities and innovation. These economic benefits of recycling are examined in a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA). The report considers the recycling industry in the context of building a 'green economy', a major European policy objective.
Dealing with large quantities of unwanted (and sometimes toxic) waste is often difficult – but it becomes even more complicated when people live in isolated communities, in extreme environments hundreds of kilometres from the nearest treatment plant. This is the subject of a new film considering waste management in Greenland, entitled ‘Mission Greenland – for a cleaner future’.