Waste management

In a circular economy context, waste management focuses on preserving the value and properties of waste materials by delivering high quality secondary raw materials to the economy.

The EEA work around this field assists the European policy making process by providing knowledge and information through assessment reports and indicators. Our latest publications on the topic are listed below.

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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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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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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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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