Reducing the amount of waste generated at source and reducing the hazardous content of that waste is regarded as the highest priority according to the Waste Hierarchy established in the Waste Framework Directive (Article 4). Waste prevention is closely linked with improving manufacturing methods and influencing consumers to demand greener products and less packaging.
The Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste (COM(2005) 666 final) addresses waste prevention as one of the priority issues. According to the Strategy, although waste prevention has been the paramount objective of both national and EU waste management policies for many years, limited progress has been made in transforming this objective into practical action. Neither the Community nor the national targets set in the past have been satisfactorily met. As a result, the Strategy concludes that prevention can only be achieved by influencing practical decisions taken at various stages of the life cycle: how a product is designed, manufactured, made available to the consumer and finally used.
The Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe recognises the importance of waste as a resource to be fed back into the economy. The Roadmap states that a higher priority needs to be given to re-use and recycling and incentives for waste prevention and recycling have to be created. In particular, the Roadmap includes the reduction of waste generation as an "aspirational target" for waste management, which has to be achieved by 2020.
In order to move up the waste hierarchy, the Waste Framework Directive requires that Member States shall establish Waste Prevention Programmes not later than 12 December 2013 (Article 29).
A guidance document has been prepared to support Member States when developing Waste Prevention Programmes (as required by the Waste Framework Directive). The handbook clarifies the main concepts related to waste prevention, suggesting a framework to develop Waste Prevention Programmes and providing best practices and examples of national and regional programmes employing an effective mix of measures. It also includes a list of further resources on waste prevention theory and practice.
A separate guidance document, accompanied by a number of best practice examples, has been prepared to address a specific problem of food waste prevention, which has been identified as one of the major priorities in the Resource Efficiency Roadmap, due to its relevance and its impacts on the environment, greenhouse gas emissions and global food security.
Reducing the amount of waste at source means reducing the cost of waste management and lowering the ecological footprint. Though a tempting solution, waste prevention is not necessarily easy to implement, due to the lack of knowledge about what strategies are efficient, difficulty to assess the results of a prevention action, etc. Hence, the PRE-WASTE project has developed a consistent and comprehensive approach to help local and regional authorities to prevent waste generation.
The European Week for Waste Reduction is a 3-year project supported by the LIFE+ Programme of the European Commission until end 2011. The EWWR aims to organise multiple actions during a single week, across Europe, that will raise awareness about waste prevention. It is addressed to public authorities, project developers, and citizens, and uses a range of communication tools that can reach various stakeholders. If you are interested in joining, please go to the EWWR website.