Improving resource efficiency often brings multiple environmental benefits, one of them being reduced need for energy. The purpose of this study was to quantify the energy savings that are generated as a co-benefit of improved resource efficiency in select product groups, sectors and examples of industrial symbioses in the EU. Among the areas offering the greatest energy savings from resource-efficiency initiatives are improved recycling, reduced food waste and limited growth in average EU per-capita living space. Potential savings amount to 5 to 9 thousand petajoules or 8% to 15% of EU28 primary energy consumption in 2020, as defined by the EU's energy efficiency target.
Environmental thresholds are tipping points which, once crossed, can lead to abrupt changes in the services provided by ecological systems. The study analyses how some of these thresholds can be monitored through indicators so that action is taken before the thresholds are crossed. It focuses on 4 threshold areas representing widespread problems in EU: water quality (focussing on eutrophication), water quantity, soil erosion and non-renewable resource use (for which a threshold perspective is introduced by analysing a potential link between non-renewable material consumption and air pollutant emissions thresholds). The study proposes new sets of indicators but concludes that knowledge and data availability are still too incomplete and uncertain for most environmental thresholds in EU to allow for specifying threshold values adjusted for regional conditions. The study recommends developing a searchable repository of threshold research and to better integrate threshold-related aspects into environmental data collection procedures.
Whilst recycling brings significant environmental benefits, it is primarily an industrial activity. The most efficient ways to increase the volumes of recycling (and so the economic and environmental benefits) are those that treat recycling as an economic activity and assist the recycling market to function. This study examines the market failures that limit levels of recycling in the EU and suggests policy solutions. With much primary research, it identifies the 10 sectors which may have the greatest potential for recycling growth and bases recommendations for policy on very detailed investigations of the cardboard/paper, PVC, Batteries and Food Waste sectors, focussing on the situations in the Estonia, Flanders, France, Poland, Spain and the UK. Constraints in supply of separated wastes and trade restrictions between Member States are two of the main constraints on greater recycling.
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The need to integrate environmental issues into an overall sustainability framework has been underlined most recently in the Sustainable Development Strategy. The link between environment and employment has been made on various occasions, e.g. in the Communication on Environment and employment (COM/97/0592). There are many calls to use environmental policy to support employment creation and equally many claims that high environmental standards destroy employment. Seldom, however, are these claims substantiated by analysis. This study intends to bring more clarity on the links between employment and environmental issues, based on the example of waste management policy.
Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is increasingly being used as a tool to produce information for policy makers on the costs and benefits of environmental legislation. In the field of waste management, some elements of CBA are better researched than others. However, policy makers need information on the whole range of impacts in order to make balanced decisions. This study therefore focuses on areas where information is not readily available, in particular on the valuation of environmental externalities from landfill disposal and incineration of waste. The study extensively reviews existing literature on this subject. It gives an overview of the main externalities, pathways and impacts of emissions. The main economic valuation techniques are described, including a presentation of key standard values in table form. The underlying assumptions and uncertainties of these standard values are discussed in detail. Finally, some calculation examples are included to illustrate the possible use of these data.
In the course of the preparation of the 6th Environmental Action Programme, the European Commission has requested a number of prominent experts to give their views on the issue of resource management, to explain a number of fundamental concepts and to provide suggestions for appropriate measures to improve resource efficiency. The studies therefore reflect the views of the authors and not necessarily those of the European Commission.
- Resources, Scarcity, Growth and the Environment (pdf ~ 125K)
by R. U. Ayres, INSEAD
- Towards a sustainable use of natural resources (pdf ~ 70K)
by H. Muilerman and H. Blonk, Stichting Natuur en Milieu
- Do we need public policy? (pdf ~ 60K)
by Aart de Zeeuw
- Using Ecological Footprint Analysis for Problem Formulation, Policy Development, and Communication (pdf ~ 130K)
by Mathis Wackernagel
- Dematerialization, Environmental Accounting and Resource Management (pdf ~ 210K)
by Peter Bartelmus, Stefan Bringezu, Stephan Moll
- Public Policy and Natural Resources Management (pdf ~ 110K)
by Prof. D. Pearce, University College, London
- The Economics of Resource Management (pdf ~ 70K)
by Hans Christoph Binswanger and Rabindra Nath Chakraborty, University of St. Gallen
This study gives an overview of the main scientific concepts in the field of resource management both from the perspectives of classical economics and alternative schools. It discusses a number of basic definitions in the context of resource management such as the term "resources", weak and strong sustainability, ownership regimes etc. The main schools of thought described are: dematerialization (eco-efficiency, factor 4/10), mass flow analysis (MIPS and rucksacks, carrying capacity, ecological footprints), thermodynamics (entropy, exergy), classical and neo-classical resource economics, externality valuation, resource accounting and welfare cost-benefit analysis. Finally, it makes proposals for further research. The study was undertaken to provide the basis for discussion at an expert workshop held on 13 July 2000. Further work on this subject is in the process of being launched. The study was undertaken by GUA (Austria)
This study presents the main economic implications of diverting some relevant PVC waste streams from incineration to alternative options such as landfill and mechanical recycling. The analysis is based on three different scenarios. For each scenario the financial costs avoided and incurred are estimated, and the major environmental burdens are identified and quantified. As far as possible, the external costs are calculated and then compared with the results of the financial analysis. All the 15 Member states plus six accession countries are covered by the study.
The study was undertaken by AEA Technology (United Kingdom)
In the course of the preparation of the 6th Environmental Action Programme (6EAP), the European Commission organized a workshop with selected experts on the analysis of resource use and management. This workshop was intended to get an overview over the main relevant concepts, how they relate to each other, what the main conclusions for policy purposes could be and what the focus for further research should be in order to develop a coherent analytical background to possible future initiatives by the European Commission. Read more here.
Recycling and reuse of plastic material can assist reducing the amounts of plastic waste to dispose of, and reducing resource use in plastic production. Mandatory marking of plastics presents a possible means for increasing the current rates of recycling and reuse. This study determines the financial costs for the EU plastic converter industry of using certain mandatory marking schemes as an important input into the further considerations on ‘mandatory marking’ as an instrument. The study includes also assessments of the impacts on sub-sectors within the converter industry, impacts on the SME's, trade implications and finally, the study comprises a brief appraisal of the implications for the CEE accession countries. The study does not include any considerations on the possible benefits from mandatory marking.