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The issue

The European economy consumes a significant amount of resources which puts pressure on the environment in Europe and elsewhere. These pressures include depletion of non-renewable resources, intensive use of renewable resources and emissions of pollutants into water, air and soil. Housing, mobility and food account for the largest share of resource use. On average, the economies of the EEA countries generate some six tonnes of waste per inhabitant every year. In the EU, the majority of this waste (51.5 %) is still sent to landfill, but an increasing amount is recycled or recovered (43.6 %) or incinerated (4.9 %). The EU aims to reduce waste amounts through waste prevention and to improve waste management via recycling, recovery and re‑use. Whereas the trend for waste generation is upwards for many waste streams, waste management is improving but with large differences between countries.

Review process

The Waste Framework Directive, which sets the legal framework for waste, will be reviewed by the end of 2014. It includes basic concepts and definitions related to waste management and lays down principles such as the 'polluter pays principle', 'life cycle thinking' and the 'waste hierarchy'. The Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste, which sets out a number of actions to improve waste management, is also currently under review.

Links to SOER 2010 and other EEA products

Global megatrends


Thematic assessments

Other EEA products

  • Population
  • Understanding climate change
  • Ch. 2: Climate change
  • Mitigating climate change
  • Health
  • Ch. 3: Nature and biodiversity
  • Adapting to climate change

  • Accelerating technologies
  • Biodiversity


  • Continued growth
  • Ch. 5: Environment and health
  •  Land use


  • Global power shifts
  • Soil


  • Global competition
  • Marine and coastal environment


  • Decreasing natural resources


  • Climate change consequences




  • Water resources: quantity and flows


  • Global regulation and governance


  • Freshwater quality




  • Air pollution




  • Urban environment


Note: Above cells with hyperlinks lead to specific SOER 2010 information and other EEA products that are relevant to the policy area on this page.


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