Laying the foundations for a German national waste-prevention plan

Laying the foundations for a German national waste-prevention plan

The German Federal Environment Agency has developed a database of measures for waste prevention and published recommendations for drawing up the national waste-prevention programme.

The waste hierarchy presented in the 2008 EU Waste Framework Directive (WFD) sets waste prevention as the top priority in waste management, followed by reuse, recycling, recovery and disposal. Based on this guideline, Members States must develop and present their waste-prevention programmes by end 2013.

In view of this, the German Federal Environment Agency has created 17 categories of measures from a wide range of targeted waste-prevention actions, taking into account both economic parameters and environmental technology developments. With a total of 300 listed measures, its database is intended to be a source of reference for public authorities at local, regional and national level.

For instance, in eco-design promotion, the database presents measures that support small and medium-sized enterprises developing environmentally- friendly products. Among several actions, a consulting programme in Hamburg is showcased where eco-innovative companies receive the essential know-how from industrial designers and product engineers.

In the ‘Economic instruments to promote resource efficiency’ category, measures presented include financial incentives and fees that support the implementation of relevant legislation. For example, the ‘Material Input Tax’ project encourages lower raw material demand through the taxation of resource extraction.

In the area of environmental impact indicators, the database showcases examples of German and Europe-wide initiatives, such as development of regional waste balance sheets and the campaign to reduce waste by 100 kg per capita through simple means of prevention.

Apart from listing hundreds of waste-prevention measures, the Environmental Agency, goes one step further by making concrete recommendations on how these measures can be of direct and effective use.

A prevention-oriented policy cannot be successful without the involvement of various stakeholders. Both producers, who largely determine product design, and consumers, who are asked to adopt low waste-consumption patterns, must be sensitised. But this is not enough on its own.

Waste reduction cannot be seen as an isolated problem. The interaction of different measures and instruments is necessary in legal, economic and technical terms. The development of eco-innovative products with longer lives, use of low-waste materials in the production phase and promotion of green procurement should be seen as complementary actions rather than as independent activities.

Above all, what the research programme showed is that there are already plenty of inspired and successful measures for waste prevention. What is needed, therefore, is not to launch new initiatives, but to facilitate good coordination and fruitful networking among existing measures.

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