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EU aims for zero-waste economy with higher recycling targets - 10/07/2014

A green box containing household waste for recycling - newspapers, bottles and cartons ©Shutterstock

The EU has proposed higher recycling targets in a bid to transform Europe's economy into one where nothing is wasted, supporting sustainable growth.

Under the new targets, European countries would

  • ban the burying of recyclable waste in landfill after 2025
  • recycle 70% of municipal waste (everyday rubbish) and 80% of packaging by 2030
  • reduce marine litter and food waste.

Anticipated benefits include

  • an economy with a lower environmental impact and reduced CO2 emissions
  • less demand for costly, scarce resources
  • 580 000 new jobs in waste management.

Reuse, repair, recycle

The EU is working towards a "circular economy" in Europe, in which reusing, repairing and recycling materials is the norm - instead of extracting raw materials, using them once and discarding them.

In 2010, some 400 - 500 million tonnes of waste that could have been reused or recycled were instead landfilled or burned in Europe. Making the most of our resources could boost EU competitiveness on the global stage and reduce our reliance on increasingly scarce – and expensive – raw materials.

A new target to improve resource productivity – the ratio of an economy's Gross Domestic Product to its consumption of raw materials – could be set as part of the plans.

Improving efficiency, creating new jobs

The EU says the move towards a circular economy can be driven by

  • designing products that are easier to repair, upgrade and recycle
  • creating better performing products that last longer, and more efficient production processes
  • reducing the use of materials that are hazardous or difficult to recycle
  • providing incentives to reduce waste
  • turning waste into a resource through technical advances.

This will help European citizens enjoy a cleaner and healthier environment, as well as longer-lasting products. For businesses, costs will fall by an estimated 8% of annual turnover.

The proposals come alongside a series of EU initiatives to seize the growth and employment opportunities offered by greening the economy, and to make new buildings more environment-friendly.

Press release: higher recycling targets

Q&As: EU waste targets

We must make the most of "green" job opportunities, says EU

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