EEA report: Globally public information campaigns on waste are needed

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Elektroschrott (Foto: O. Kürth)

Copenhagen, Denmark — Reducing food waste involve relevant stakeholders in the process, providing information aimed at EU consumers, basic information on the causes of food waste, tips for preventing it, and information on the quantities and impacts of food waste in the EU and globally public information campaigns are needed to increase awareness and understanding of waste policies and stimulate a change in behaviour. Same is for eletronic waste. This is the key message on waste prevention of the European Environment Agency’s indicator report 2014 that looks at the transition to a green economy with a focus on the global environmental impacts of the EU’s production-consumption systems.

In the past, EU policies have addressed food waste as part of biodegradable waste. The EU Landfill Directive requires all Member States to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill and the EU is stepping up efforts to reinforce full implementation. The EU’s waste hierarchy also promotes the diversion of food waste from landfill towards composting and bio-digestion.

Communication on a circular economy

Most recently, the European Commission’s communication on a circular economy is ‚considering presenting specific proposals to reduce food waste‘. The communication proposes that Member States develop national food-waste prevention strategies, and endeavour to ensure that food waste in the manufacturing, retail/distribution, food service/hospitality sectors and households is reduced by at least 30 per cent by 2025. The EU’s 7th EAP requires the Commission to develop ‚a comprehensive strategy to combat unnecessary food waste and work with Member States in the fight against excessive food-waste generation‘. In addition, the Waste Framework Directive required EU Member States to adopt waste prevention programmes by the end of 2013. A first screening of the programmes adopted by that date showed that 18 out of 20 reviewed programmes included measures to tackle the generation of food or organic waste.

Electricity consumption increased

Concerning electrical and electronic waste, the European consumption is shaped by rapid technological developments, falling prices, more households and fewer persons per household, driving
the purchase of more appliances. Appliances are often exchanged for new ones before they fail, and consumer electronics have become subject to fashion. Electricity consumption by households has increased, despite many appliances becoming more energy-efficient.

Purchase/discard behaviour has made end-of-life electrical and electronic goods (e-waste) one of the fastest growing waste streams. E-waste contains valuable materials and hazardous substances yet considerable amounts still end up in landfills or are illegally exported to countries outside Europe.

Such exports often end up being handled by unskilled, ill-equipped workers with consequent pollution and health risks for local people and the local environment. European priorities include curbing illegal shipments and ensuring that e-waste is collected and properly treated in the existing European recycling infrastructure.

Opportunities for reducing the life-cycle environmental impacts of electrical and electronic goods include making products more energy-efficient; smart, modular design enabling upgrading and repair, take-back and re-manufacturing; and capturing more of the valuable materials from e-waste.

The full report on „Environmental impacts of production-consumption systems in Europe“ can be  downloaded under eea.europa.eu.

Source: European Environment Agency (EEA)