Members' Research Service By / November 17, 2014

Waste reduction: rubbish bins on a diet

Written by Didier Bourguignon Are you ready for the European week for waste reduction? Action will take place across Europe to…

© Pixel & Création / Fotolia
Written by Didier Bourguignon

Are you ready for the European week for waste reduction? Action will take place across Europe to raise awareness about the ‘3 Rs’: Reduce waste, Reuse products, Recycle material from 22 to 30 November 2014. This year’s focus will be on food waste. 

All that food …

Waste reduction: rubbish bins on a diet
© Pixel & Création / Fotolia

Did you know that in the European Union, we each throw away an average of 431 kg of household waste annually? And that 180 kg of that waste is food? Households are the main source of food waste in Europe, followed by manufacturing, food services and retail.

At global level, it is estimated that one third of the food produced is lost or wasted. The European Parliament Research Service has looked at how the EU contributes to tackling food waste with awareness-raising initiatives, like the European week for waste reduction and a commitment, to halve the disposal of edible food in the EU by 2020. In its review of the European waste policy in July 2014, the Commission proposed new targets for reducing food waste. The European Parliament’s Environment Committee is expected to look at the proposals in the near future.

As the world population keeps growing, reducing food waste can make a big contribution towards feeding 10 billion people in 2050. In a wide-ranging study on this topic, our scientific foresight unit STOA has analysed the available options to cut food waste at EU level, such as setting binding reduction targets, scrapping the remaining European marketing standards on fruits and vegetables, or simplifying food date labelling to avoid consumer confusion.

 … packed in plastic bags

Each EU citizen uses almost 200 plastic carrier bags per year, most of them single use only. Once discarded, they litter the environment for hundreds of years and are especially damaging to marine environments (read our dossier on the issue).

In April 2014, the European Parliament amended a legislative proposal from the Commission on plastic carrier bags. Parliament amended it to introduce reduction targets whereby Member States would have to halve their consumption by 2017 and to reduce it by 80% two years later. The Parliament is now awaiting the Council’s position on the proposal. Find out more on the issue, the Commission proposal and stakeholder views.

Towards a circular economy

The current “take-make-throw away” approach consumes enormous resources. As an alternative to this linear economic model, the European Commission has put forward a legislative package on a circular economy, an alternative production and consumption model aiming for a zero waste generation. This builds upon the EU Resource efficiency policies launched in 2011. The European Parliamentary Research Service has produced an implementation appraisal on the subject of resource efficiency and waste, looking at EU legislation on the subject and their implementation status as well as an analysis of the European Commission’s impact assessment.

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