Waste & Natural Resources
Although 30 years of EU waste legislation have significantly improved waste management practices in Europe total waste volumes continue to increase at rates comparable to economic growth. This represents a continued challenge, but also a waste of resources since natural resources become waste at the end of their useful life. Resource use has been an issue in European environment policy discussions over the past 30 years. Currently, resource use is eroding the planet's carrying capacity to regenerate the resources and environmental services on which our prosperity and growth are based.
The challenge for us is to facilitate and stimulate growth while at the same time ensure that the state of the environment does not get worse. Our aim is to become a resource efficient society that avoids waste and uses the remaining waste as a resource. This will help us reach our overall objective to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with the use of natural resources, ranging from climate change to the overexploitation of certain resources.
The Commission has proposed two long-term strategies to achieve these goals: the strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste, and the strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources. Their implementation is well underway.
The two strategies are closely interlinked: resources become waste, so that waste contains materials and energy that can be recycled to become resources again. In fact, the generation of waste is a symptom of the inefficient use of resources and consequently waste policies play a key role in contributing to resource efficiency.
The waste strategy has set into motion the development of national waste prevention programmes, the fostering of stable markets for recycling activities, and the simplification and modernisation of EU waste legislation, in particular the revision of the Waste Framework Directive. EU waste policies are being complemented with life-cycle thinking, aiming to minimise negative environmental impact throughout the entire life-cycle of products, from their production, use and disposal.
The resources strategy, which is charting new territory, focuses on improving knowledge, developing monitoring tools and fostering strategic approaches in specific economic sectors as well as at national and international levels in view of reducing the negative environmental impacts of resource use in our growing economy.
The way forward is clear if we are to meet both the needs of the environment and stakeholders: less waste, more and better recycling and more sustainable use of natural resources.