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European Waste

The European waste hierarchy refers to the five steps included in the article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive.

    The five steps included in Article 4 of the EU Waste Framework Directive:
  1. Prevention: preventing and reducing waste generation.
  2. Reuse and preparation for reuse: giving the products a second life before they become waste.
  3. Recycle: any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes composting and it does not include incineration.
  4. Recovery: some waste incineration based on a political non-scientific formula[citation needed] that upgrades the less inefficient incinerators.
  5. Disposal: processes to dispose of waste be it landfilling, incineration, pyrolysis, gasification and other finalist solutions. Landfill is restricted in some EU-countries through Landfill Directives and there is a debate about Incineration E.g. original plastic which contains a lot of energy is just recovered in energy and not recycled. According to the Waste Framework Directive the European Waste Hierarchy is legally binding except in cases that may require specific waste streams to depart from the hierarchy. This should be justified on the basis of life-cycle thinking.

European Directives

  • European Commission's Roadmap on a resource efficient Europe (EC, 2011)
  • EU Waste Framework Directive (EU, 2008) (PDF 150k)
  • Landfill Directive (EU, 1999)

Few countries of the EU reduced their total municipal waste output in the period 2001 - 2010, and most countries still landfill more than 50% of their municipal waste. However, there are clear signs of a shift away from landfilling to other waste management methods.

Electronic waste
EMAS is for every stage of a product's life

The proportion of recycling of municipal waste has increased by about 10% (17% to 27%) on average across the EU between 2001-2010. Material recycling has proceeded better than bio-waste reclamation (composting or bacterial digestion for bio-fuels).

The more efficient use of waste as an energy source, and better waste management, can lead to a reduction in GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions. Landfills can produce methane gas from bio-waste, which is not as easily collected and used as from a dedicated bio-fuel plant. The reuse of used materials reduces the amount of virgin materials required, and therefore reduces GHG emissions from primary production.

The EU Report Managing municipal solid waste — a review of achievements in 32 European countries (EEA Report No 2/2013) demonstrates a strong correlation between municipal recycling rates and application of measures such as landfill bans on biodegradable waste, mandatory separate collection of municipal waste fractions, and recycling-encouraging economic instruments such as landfill and incineration taxes, and waste collection fees.