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Attitudes of Europeans towards waste and resource management

A recent Flash Eurobarometer highlighted European citizens’ perceptions, attitudes and practices related to generation and management of waste, efficient use of resources, as well as elements of the so-called “circular economy”.

Unsurprisingly, almost all respondents (96%) say it is important for them that Europe uses its resources more efficiently. Also, a substantial majority of people think that the impact of more efficient resource use would be positive on the quality of life in their country (86%), on the economic growth (80%), as well as on employment opportunities in their country (78%).

To close this first chapter that provides an overview of the issue of European resource management, a majority of people consider that reducing waste and sorting recyclable waste at home (51%) and in industry and construction (50%) would make the biggest difference.

The second chapter is divided into two parts: waste generation and waste management. Roughly nine out of ten respondents sort paper/cardboard/beverage cartons (90%), plastics (90%) and glass (88%). About three quarters say they sort household hazardous waste (79%), metal cans (78%), electrical waste (76%) and kitchen waste (74%). On a country level, we can see clear differences between Member States. At least 70% of respondents sort all eight types of waste in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Austria, Slovenia and the UK. Conversely, respondents in Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia and Cyprus are least likely to sort their household waste.

Seven out of ten respondents (71%) say that reassurance that their waste is effectively recycled would persuade them to separate more of their waste. A majority of people also say that more and better waste recycling and composting facilities in their area (59%), financial incentives (59%), and more convenient separate waste collection at their home (51%) would convince them to do more. 

Asked about their preferred way of financing household waste management, four out of ten respondents (44%) say that they would prefer to pay in proportion to the quantity of unsorted waste they generate, while three out of ten (30%) would prefer the cost of waste management to be included in the price of products they buy. Only a fifth of people (19%) favour paying a fixed sum for waste management through their taxes.  

The third chapter focuses specifically on one common type of household waste – plastic – as well as on littering in general. It first looks at respondents’ attitudes towards plastic waste and litter, before evaluating the extent of the litter problem in the respondents’ own area. Potential ways to reduce littering and support for EU-level targets to reduce marine litter are also evaluated in this chapter.

The fourth and final chapter of the report addresses the “circular economy”: durable or recyclable products, maximal use of products, repairing instead of discarding, etc. More specifically, this chapter deals with the most important factors when buying a durable product, as well as the main perceptions of second-hand products. Finally, it focuses on emerging alternatives to buying new products, like remanufactured, rented or shared products.

Read the Eurobarometer survey

Regions for Recycling provides tools to help cities and regions to improve their selective collection and recycling performances. Among these tools, a series of good practices will demonstrate how local and regional authorities managed to improve their recyclicng performances, in particular by implementing strategies and instruments to foster selective collection. Those good practices will be showcased during R4R events: a conference in Brussels on 17 September and the R4R final event in Sofia on 23 October 2014. Furthermore, an online tool allows cities and regions to monitor and benchmark their recycling performances, getting to know what other territories are comparable to their situation, the potential for improvement and the ways to get to it.

Intereg IVC European Union
site last updated 09 December 2016
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