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Can the EU support waste prevention without proper legislation?

Zero Waste Europe released a policy brief today recommending the adoption of a waste prevention framework within the scope of European legislation.

When it comes to circular economy, preventing waste is a topic in the town, but we haven't seen it written down. In the European Union, the level of municipal solid waste generation has been stagnant for the past 10 years. The current binding obligations of member states are mainly to increase (1) or decrease (2) the rate, which does not mean to reduce the total amount of waste generated. Although the single-use plastics directive is a first step in the right direction, it only targets specific parts of a specific waste stream. Unfortunately, the problem is much bigger.

However, the circular economy is not only about protecting resources, but also about reducing their overall use to stay within the earth. One way to achieve this goal is to adopt zero waste measures that rely on waste prevention. Among the 10 priorities for waste prevention, Zero Waste Europe recommends adopting a waste prevention framework, which includes:

A binding overall waste prevention target achieved by all member states; a binding waste prevention target for a specific product group; a maximum upper limit of residual waste per person per year.

In addition, these measures should be embedded in a consistent framework starting with a sustainable product policy framework, because waste prevention not only occurs in waste legislation, but also needs to start early in the value chain to be most effective.

“The circular economy is both a circle and a reduction in the size of the circle. So far, EU legislation has mainly focused on improving circularity. This is of course a necessary step, but it cannot be the final step. This is why we require the EU to adopt Strong and ambitious waste prevention measures to supplement its legislative reasons"

Pierre Condamine, European Zero Waste Policy Officer.

The newly adopted Circular Economy Action Plan opens the door for such measures. Considering all these entry points, Zero Waste Europe calls on European institutions to really pay attention to waste prevention in order to further move towards recycling Europe.

Download policy brief


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