Europe wastes its resources: €5 billion thrown away every year

7 October 2009

Brussels, 7 October - Europe throws away resources worth over 5 billion euros every year by landfilling or incinerating materials that could be recycled, Friends of the Earth Europe reported today [1]. At the same time, Europe is importing ever-increasing quantities of materials from the rest of the world [2].

Dr Michael Warhurst of Friends of the Earth Europe's Resources and Consumption campaign said: "It's shocking that all these valuable resources are being literally thrown away across Europe, whilst at the same time Europe continues to buy in ever-increasing quantities of materials from the rest of the world. Europe needs to stop landfilling and incinerating recyclable materials, and we need new policies to create a resource efficient EU."

The new report, 'Gone to waste: the valuable resources that European countries bury and burn', finds that countries across the European Union are landfilling or incinerating recyclable material which if recycled would save an estimated 148 million tonnes of CO2eq, equivalent to taking approximately 47 million cars off the road per year.

This research reveals that around half of all key recyclable materials generated in the EU, including paper, card, glass, plastics, aluminium and steel, are being sent to disposal and not to recycling. If recycled instead, these materials would have had a minimum potential monetary value of 5.25 billion euros.

Recycling, reusing and reducing these materials would have significant benefits for the climate.

This valuable resource could also provide the basis for the development of an expanded recycling and resource management industry, creating many more 'green jobs' in reprocessing, sorting and collecting of recyclables and realising the value of this so-called 'waste'.

High value materials, such as aluminium cans, are ending up buried or destroyed in incinerators largely as a result of inadequate recycling systems. In order to address this waste, Friends of the Earth Europe wants to ban the landfill and incineration of recyclable materials, an approach that has worked well in the Belgium region of Flanders.

In addition, Friends of the Earth Europe is proposing that Europe should start to measure its resource use, and set targets to reduce this resource use [3]. This objective is part of the 'Spring Alliance' manifesto, which is supported by environmental, social and development non-government organisations and by Trade Unions [4].

 

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Notes for editors

[1] The report "Gone to waste: the valuable resources that European countries bury and burn" is available here.

The report uses the best available data on recycling rates in Europe, which date from 2004, and makes a conservative estimate of the value of the materials concerned, Note that: (i) the report focuses on the high tonnage materials such as plastics and aluminium, and does not look at the low tonnage valuable metals that are found in electronic equipment;
(ii) The value of recyclable materials does not include the cost of recycling the material.

2. 'Overconsumption' Our use of the world's natural resources', Friends of the Earth Europe, September 2009

3. 'How to measure Europe's Resource Use', Sustainable Europe Research Institute/Friends of the Earth Europe, July 2009

4. http://www.springalliance.eu