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Municipal waste management in Western Balkan countries

Municipal waste, if not managed properly, is a source of pollution. However, it also contains valuable materials that can be recycled. As in the EU, in the Western Balkan countries municipal waste has been the target of waste policies for several years, mainly aimed at improving waste management. This briefing reviews current waste issues across the region, key initiatives being implemented, and remaining obstacles to preventing municipal waste generation and to its appropriate management.

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Reaching 2030’s residual municipal waste target – why recycling is not enough

Municipal waste accounts for 27 % of the total waste generated in the EU (excluding mineral waste). Due to its complex composition and ubiquity, it can have significant negative impacts on human health and on the environment if not managed properly. The 2020 EU Circular Economy Action Plan has established an objective of halving the quantity of municipal waste that is not recycled or prepared for reuse by 2030. At the same time, all EU member states will have to recycle or prepare for reuse at least 60% of generated municipal waste by 2030. This briefing explores how these two targets are linked and how more ambitious waste prevention actions will be key for achieving them simultaneously.

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Resource nexus, challenges and opportunities

Resource nexus assessments analyse the direct and indirect interconnections between different natural resources, their management, use and governance, as well as the synergies and trade-offs that can be generated through policy interventions. By building on the insights provided by a growing body of knowledge and selected case studies, this briefing reflects on the role of the resource nexus in supporting policy coherence and integration in the context of the European Green Deal.

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Textiles and the environment: the role of design in Europe’s circular economy

From the perspective of European consumption, textiles have on average the fourth highest negative life cycle impact on the environment and climate change, after food, housing and mobility. A shift to a circular textile production and consumption system with longer use, and more reuse and recycling could reduce those impacts along with reductions in overall consumption. One important measure is circular design of textiles to improve product durability, repairability and recyclability and to ensure the uptake of secondary raw materials in new products.

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Progressing towards waste prevention in Europe – the case of textile waste prevention

Waste prevention is the best waste management policy option, according to the waste hierarchy, the EU's main rule for the environmental ranking of waste management policies. Its main objective is to reduce waste generation, the environmental impacts of waste management and the hazardousness of the waste generated. It is mainly expressed as the aspiration to break the link between waste generation and economic growth (decoupling). To support this objective, the EU and all is Member States have put in place legislation that promotes activities in products' life cycles aimed at reducing the amount of waste generated. At the national level, these policies are described in national or regional waste prevention programmes, which have been in place in most of the countries examined since at least 2013.

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Improving the climate impact of raw material sourcing

The extraction and processing of raw materials are associated with potentially significant environmental impacts, including contributing to approximately half of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally. In the EU, non-energy, non-agricultural raw materials, although a small subset of all raw materials and natural resources, account for 18 % of GHG emissions associated with EU consumption. In the context of the EU's commitment to reducing its share of global GHG emissions, as well as the European Green Deal's aspiration to achieve a climate-neutral continent by 2050, mitigating climate impacts from raw material production has a central role to play in the EU's climate agenda.

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Technical assessment of progress towards a cleaner Mediterranean

Monitoring and reporting results for Horizon 2020 regional initiative

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Digital technologies will deliver more efficient waste management in Europe

Digitalisation is transforming the 21st century, affecting every area of daily life, including the environmental technology sector. Digital technologies will deliver more effective waste management regimes. They will allow Europe’s economy to recover more of the valuable materials present in waste streams, reducing the amounts of raw materials mined or imported and avoiding the associated environmental and climate impacts.

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Plastic in textiles: towards a circular economy for synthetic textiles in Europe

Plastic-based — or ‘synthetic’— textiles are woven into our daily lives in Europe. They are in the clothes we wear, the towels we use and the bed sheets we sleep in. They are in the carpets, curtains and cushions we decorate our homes and offices with. And they are in safety belts, and car tyres, workwear and sportswear. Synthetic textile fibres are produced from fossil fuel resources, such as oil and natural gas. Their production, consumption and related waste handling generate greenhouse gas emissions, use non-renewable resources and can release microplastics. This briefing provides an overview of the synthetic textile economy in Europe, analyses environmental and climate impacts, and highlights the potential for developing a circular economy value chain.

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A framework for enabling circular business models in Europe

The circular economy has become a priority policy topic in Europe (EC, 2015, 2020) and is a key objective of the European Green Deal. There is increasing interest in the potential for altering traditional business models to enable materials and products to be reused and remain in the economy for as long as possible — as opposed to being used once and then discarded. This briefing presents an analytical framework, identifying actions that can be taken to implement circular business models effectively.

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Plastics, the circular economy and Europe′s environment

Plastics play an essential role in modern society, but also lead to significant impacts on the environment and climate. Reducing such impacts while retaining the usefulness of plastics requires a shift towards a more circular and sustainable plastics system. This report tells the story of plastics, and their effect on the environment and climate, and looks at their place in a European circular economy.

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Towards a cleaner Mediterranean

This joint EEA and UNEP/MAP report takes stock of the progress achieved and challenges ahead in the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Horizon 2020 initiative for a cleaner Mediterranean (H2020).

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Biodegradable and compostable plastics — challenges and opportunities

What is the difference between compostable and biodegradable? What happens to biodegradable and compostable plastics when they are littered? Can citizens compost such products in their own gardens? Can such plastics be recycled? This briefing aims to answer these questions.

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The case for increasing recycling: Estimating the potential for recycling in Europe

EU legislation includes recycling targets for municipal, construction and demolition, and electronic waste. This briefing shows that there is significant potential to increase recycling from all of these streams. However, to fully exploit this potential, current barriers need to be overcome, e.g. price competition from virgin resource alternatives, infrastructure capacity and the complexity of certain waste products. This also requires strong implementation of targeted regulations to increase separate collection. Implementing new policy measures, some of which are already included in Europe’s 2020 circular economy action plan, can both directly and indirectly exploit the potential for increased recycling.

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Europe’s consumption in a circular economy: the benefits of longer-lasting electronics

This briefing analyses the opportunities to reduce environmental and climate impacts from electronics by increasing product lifetime, delaying obsolescence and improving their suitability for circular economy business models.

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Bio-waste in Europe — turning challenges into opportunities

Bio-waste – mainly food and garden waste – is a key waste stream with a high potential for contributing to a more circular economy. This report provides an overview of bio-waste generation, prevention, collection, and treatment in Europe.

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Resource efficiency and the circular economy in Europe 2019

An overview of the policies, approaches and targets of 32 European countries

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Construction and demolition waste: challenges and opportunities in a circular economy

Construction and demolition waste (C&DW) comprises the largest waste stream in the EU, with relatively stable amounts produced over time and high recovery rates. Although this may suggest that the construction sector is highly circular, scrutiny of waste management practices reveals that C&DW recovery is largely based on backfilling operations and low-grade recovery, such as using recycled aggregates in road sub-bases. This briefing examines how circular economy-inspired actions can help achieve waste policy objectives, namely waste prevention and increase both the quantity and the quality of recycling for C&DW while reducing hazardous materials in the waste.

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Textiles in Europe's circular economy

Textiles are fundamental to our society, providing us with clothing, shoes, carpets, curtains, furniture, etc. for homes, offices and public buildings. The textiles industry employs millions of people worldwide, making it among the largest in the world and an important part of Europe’s manufacturing industry. However, textile production and consumption cause significant environmental, climate and social impacts by using resources, water, land and chemicals and emitting greenhouse gases and pollutants. This briefing provides an EU perspective of the environmental and climate pressures from textile production and consumption, and discusses how circular business models and regulation can help move us towards a circular textiles economy.

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Reducing loss of resources from waste management is key to strengthening the circular economy in Europe

Europe relies heavily on material resources for almost all of society’s activities. Its extraction and production of material resources have significant impacts on the environment and human health, as well as on the economy. It is essential to reuse such resources in European economies, keeping their value high, delivering value for longer periods and reducing the need to use virgin materials. While progress is being made in Europe, by implementing an ambitious waste policy and the Circular Economy Framework, significant amounts of valuable resources are still lost through inefficient waste management practices. This briefing describes material losses in Europe for some key waste streams, namely waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), end-of-life batteries, plastic waste and textile waste.

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