Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Jean-Dominique Billaud

One person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure!

25th April 2012

Don’t throw away the potential resources that waste! Is the finding of a new European Commission Report. Janez Potočnik, the commissioner for the Environment stated that “Waste is too valuable to just throw away, and if you manage it right you can put that value back into the economy. Six Member States now combine virtually zero landfilling and high recycling rates. Not only do they exploit the value of the waste, they have created thriving industries and many jobs in the process.”

Recycling information Board in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the 2012 European Green Capital

Recycling information Board in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the 2012 European Green Capital

The report has shown that the top performing Member States have recycling rates of up to 70 % and bury virtually nothing, whilst others still landfill more than three-quarters of their waste. How have the best performers turned waste from a problem into a resource?

The report from the European Commission today explains that it is by combining economic instruments. A mix of landfilling and incineration taxes and bans, producer responsibility schemes and pay-as-you-throw prove to be the most effective tools in shifting waste streams to more sustainable paths. If the EU is to meet the objectives set out in the Resource Efficiency Roadmap – zero landfilling, maximising recycling and reuse, and limiting energy recovery to non recyclable waste – these economic instruments will need to be introduced more widely across all Member States.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said that “This report shows how they achieved it: by making prevention, reuse and recycling more economically attractive through a selection of economic instruments. We now have a common responsibility with the Member States and local authorities to ensure that these instruments are effectively used and spread across the EU. This is one of the central goals of the Resource Efficiency Roadmap.”
Waste production and management is one of the 12 environmental indicators that applicant cities are assessed on when applying to become the European Green Capital Award.

Vitoria-Gasteiz is the 2012 European Green Capital, has been exploring ambitious strategies aimed at cutting waste to a minimum. For example, the recycling of sludge from their waste-water treatment plant will minimise the volume of material deposited to landfill, as will channeling waste materials into energy-recovery systems or landscape recovery. Waste-Management programmes have already achieved higher recycling levels than in most Spanish cities.

For more information on the European Green Capital Award click here

For more information on Vitoria-Gasteiz the 2012 European Green Capital click here

The report and detailed results for each Member State:

ESTAT Report on municipal waste management:


Study on macroeconomic modelling of sustainable development and the links between the economy and the environment:

See also: