How much garbage is produced every day

Far too much rubbish is produced, dumped and burned

Europe has a waste problem. (airborne77 / Fotolia.com)

However, only 40 percent of this waste is recycled, although the vast majority of it consists of recyclable materials such as plastic, glass or paper.

Another 40 percent is landfilled and the rest is incinerated. More than 60 percent (a total of 1,600 million tons) of the Europe-wide waste of approx. 2.5 billion tons is also mineral waste from the construction sector or the extraction of raw materials. Around 60 percent of this waste is also disposed of.

Exploitation of valuable resources, CO2 emissions, littering

The high level of landfill and incineration and the low level of recycling of the waste lead to an unchecked, environmentally harmful exploitation of scarce resources such as oil or wood. Far too much waste is currently being released into the environment: on the North Sea coast alone, an average of more than 700 pieces of waste are found every 100 meters. Incineration also unnecessarily pollutes the climate with more than 100 million tons of CO2 annually.

The EU plans to revise its waste policy in 2014

The EU has recognized the problem and will focus on "waste and resources" in environmental policy in the coming year. Citizens, associations and other stakeholders can therefore report their positions on a revision of European waste policy to the EU Commission by September 10th. This consultation process is about what expectations there are of the EU in the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, the Packaging Directive and with regard to the landfilling of waste in Europe. The results of the consultation will then be incorporated into the development of new regulations and waste policy targets in 2014.

In coordination with its partner organization Friends of the Earth Europe, BUND will take part in the consultation of the EU Commission. The most important cornerstones that are necessary to solve the waste problem have already been determined.

Avoid rubbish, raise recycling rates significantly

One thing is clear: less rubbish has to be produced and the rubbish that is produced has to be better recycled. The revision of the European waste policy must therefore lead to a strengthening of measures to prevent and reuse waste. There has to be a clear signal from the EU for more recycling instead of promoting landfills and incinerators. Waste is a valuable resource that needs to be used efficiently.

In order to solve the garbage problem, the following points are of fundamental importance:

  • The EU waste policy is a key instrument in order to achieve the goals set by the EU Commission in 2011 in the "Roadmap for a resource-efficient Europe". Accordingly, waste must be treated as an important resource by 2020 at the latest. A steady decrease in per capita waste generation in Europe must be achieved and the reuse and recycling of materials must become economically attractive options. The incineration or landfill of waste should be almost eliminated by 2020.
  • Avoidance and recycling of waste must be promoted more strongly. For this purpose, concrete and ambitious goals for avoidance and reuse as well as preparation for reuse must be laid down. Manufacturer responsibility should also be increased, for example by stipulating the proportions of recycled materials in products or with regard to the reparability and recyclability of products.
  • Both the Waste Framework Directive and the Packaging Directive must set binding and higher recycling targets. For materials such as plastics, metals, glass and paper, Europe-wide recycling rates of 90 percent should be aimed for by 2020. Concrete targets should also be introduced for materials and types of waste that have not yet been taken into account (e.g. textiles, organic waste).
  • A Europe-wide introduction of separate collection systems must ensure that a low level of contamination of the material flows and thus a high recycling quality is achieved. The separate collection of materials such as plastics, organic waste, glass, paper and metals must be promoted through the introduction of a collection that is as close to the home as possible.
  • In order to intensify a true circular economy, a Europe-wide ban on landfill and incineration for plastics and other reusable and recyclable materials is necessary. The EU must therefore stop supporting landfills and incinerators with European public money and use these funds to build adequate infrastructure for recycling and reprocessing.

Information and queries from:
Rolf Buschmann
BUND consultant for technical environmental protection
Kaiserin-Augusta-Allee 5,
10553 Berlin
Tel. (030) 2 75 86-482
rolf.buschmann (at) bund.net

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