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Waste Prevention and Re-use

Background – what is waste prevention?

The best way of dealing with waste, both economically and environmentally, is to avoid creating it in the first place. People and businesses that use resources wisely not only save money but also have much less impact on the environment.  That is why waste prevention rightly occupies the top spot in the so-called “Waste Hierarchy” set out in EU and national waste legislation. 



Waste prevention is about the way in which the products and services we all rely on are designed, made, bought and sold, used, consumed and disposed of. For example:

• Making products that are more durable, repairable, re-usable and recyclable would help cut down on the amount of waste being created

• Encouraging people and businesses to re-use goods via charity shops or other re-use networks would help boost markets for second hand items

• Reducing the amounts of hazardous, harmful, or difficult to recycle substances in products or materials would help to protect the environment as well as improve the efficiency with which resources are used. 

All EU member states, including the UK, have to produce “Waste Prevention Programmes” by December 2013. The aim of the waste prevention measures contained in these Programmes will be to break the link between economic growth and the environmental impacts associated with the generation of waste. This is sometimes referred to as “decoupling”, as in the past there has been a link between economic growth and increases in the amount of waste being produced.

The ESA and waste prevention

In developed economies such as the UK, making progress in reducing and preventing waste will require profound changes in production processes, consumption patterns, and business and consumer behaviour. Given today’s propensity towards a “throwaway society”, these changes cannot be achieved overnight, and in any case it would be unrealistic to expect waste to be eliminated altogether.  But ESA and its members are playing an active part in efforts to improve the way in which we use resources in the economy, not only here in the UK, but also in the EU and more widely. 

ESA and its members are already taking a number of actions that contribute towards preventing waste and improving resource efficiency:

• We have agreed a Responsibility Deal with the Government which includes a commitment by our members to promoting the waste hierarchy and the need to place greater emphasis on waste prevention and resource efficiency in their dealings with their waste producer customers.

• We are playing an active part in the development by Government of the national Waste Prevention Programme required by the EU. These discussions are looking at issues such as how to decide which products and materials to target as waste prevention priorities, how to extend re-use, repair, and leasing business models, and how to make the idea of "waste prevention" more meaningful to people and businesses. Priorities products and materials for waste prevention could include electrical and electronic equipment, clothing and textiles, construction materials, food waste, and packaging. 

• At EU level, we are supporting the European Commission’s “Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe”, which sets out a series of policies to improve the resource efficiency of products and materials across their whole life cycle. Specifically, ESA is calling on the Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of Ministers to improve product design, and to give the waste and resource management industry  an increased role in discussions on that issue so that in future, products are designed with waste considerations in mind. ESA is also ready to work with other interested parties at European level to define indicators and targets for guiding action and monitoring progress on resource efficiency.