EEA: Europe needs to step up circular economy efforts, including waste prevention

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The EEA briefing “How far is Europe from achieving its ambition to double the circular use of materials?” shows that in 2021 around 11.7 percent of all materials used in the EU came from recycled waste, compared to 8.3 percent in in 2004.

Improved recycling will accelerate this progress, but needs to be complemented by a reduction in overall input materials to achieve the goal of doubling the share of recycled waste in material use by 2030. Getting closer to the goal could, for example, be achieved by increasing the recycling rate of all treated waste from the current 40 percent to 70 percent, reducing total material inputs by 15 percent and reducing the amount of fossil fuels used by 34 percent.

Moreover, special attention should be paid to non-metallic minerals, such as construction materials, as they account for around half of all materials used in the EU. From an environmental point of view, it would also be useful to focus efforts on materials with the greatest negative impacts in their production, especially fossil fuels and biomass.

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Waste prevention monitoring

Waste prevention is one of the key strategies for achieving a circular economy because it can reduce the use of resources, maximize the useful life of products and materials, and promote demand for more sustainable products. However, it remains difficult to establish a link between waste prevention policies and waste generation in the EU.

The EEA analysis “Monitoring progress in waste prevention” proposes a new set of indicators dedicated to monitoring long-term trends in waste prevention. The indicators focus on the drivers of waste generation, waste prevention policies, and the resulting results in reducing waste and emissions. However, to make full use of this monitoring framework, more specific data and information collected across the EU in a systematic and harmonized way are needed.

Currently, almost all EU member states have some quantitative targets and indicators on waste prevention, but these targets and indicators vary widely, according to the EEA report. Setting waste prevention targets at EU level, such as the food waste reduction target currently being developed, can also help set a direction and target for measuring and strengthening waste prevention commitments.

Supporting these two assessments, the EEA has also published an updated ‘Country Information on Waste Prevention’, which presents country-specific data and analysis of waste prevention efforts in EEA member countries and cooperating countries across Europe.

Revised monitoring framework

Earlier this week, the European Commission published a revised framework for monitoring the circular economy. The revised framework helps to better monitor progress in the transition to a circular economy in the EU and considers how it can contribute to climate neutrality, resilience and global sustainability.

Source: EEA

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