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Waste Framework Directive

The European Union’s waste policy, over the last 30 years aims to reduce the environmental and health impacts of waste and improve Europe’s resource efficiency. The long-term goal is to turn Europe into a recycling society, avoiding waste and using unavoidable waste as a resource wherever possible. The aim is to achieve much higher levels of recycling and to minimise the extraction of additional natural resources. Proper waste management is a key element in ensuring resource efficiency and the sustainable growth of European economies.

The EU’s Sixth Environment Action Programme (2002-2012) identified waste prevention and management as one of four top priorities. Its primary objective is to ensure that economic growth does not lead to more and more waste. This led to the development of a long-term strategy on waste. The 2005 Thematic Strategy on Waste Prevention and Recycling resulted in the revision of the Waste Framework Directive, the cornerstone of EU waste policy.

The revision brings a modernised approach to waste management, marking a shift away from thinking about waste as an unwanted burden to seeing it as a valued resource. The Directive focuses on waste prevention and puts in place new targets which will help the EU move towards its goal of becoming a recycling society. It includes targets for EU Member States to recycle 50% of their municipal waste and 70% of construction waste by 2020.

The Directive introduces a five-step waste hierarchy where prevention is the best option, followed by re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery, with disposal such as landfill as the last resort. EU waste legislation aims to move waste management up the waste hierarchy:

Source: European Commission

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