Signals 2014 by EEA: Building a resource-efficient and circular economy in Europe

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Biotonne (Foto: Kroll / Recyclingportal.eu)

Copenhagen, Denmark — How do we create a performing economy that creates jobs and ensures our well-being, yet respects the limits of our planet? This question is considered in the latest edition of „Signals“, an annual publication from the European Environment Agency (EEA). This edition of Signals looks at the environmental effects of our current consumption and production system. It shows how we often extract limited resources faster than the planet can produce them, turn them into products using environmentally harmful processes and then discard these products after a limited period of use.

The European consumption has a significant environmental impact:

  • Europeans used almost 16 tonnes of materials per capita in 2011. This varies across Europe, with Finns using around 30 tonnes of resources per year while the average Maltese citizen only consumed five tonnes.
  • Consumption habits are changing – for example Europeans eat twice as much meat as they did 50 years ago, which increases demand for land and other resources.
  • Europeans generated 4.5 tonnes of waste per capita in 2010.
  • Approximately a third of food is wasted in the EU. Of this waste, approximately two thirds is wasted during the manufacturing process and another two thirds are discarded in homes.

Focussing on waste generation, recycling and prevention, on food waste and on marine litter, the publication also includes many solutions which could ‚green‘ the economy. Better consumer choices, more recycling and even improvements in town planning can help, according to some of the experts interviewed in Signals. Together, these ideas could effectively create a ‚circular economy‘, where waste becomes a resource to be reused.

The publication is illustrated with pictures and cartoons from Waste•smART, a recent EEA competition on the theme of waste. It also includes several fascinating infographics. Over the coming months it will be made available in more than 25 European languages.

The full report can be downloaded from eea.europa.eu.

Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)