Stepping up waste prevention efforts and increasing recycling rates could save more than £70bn and reduce youth unemployment by 18% by 2030, according to European campaigners.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a cross-country federation of over 140 environmental non-governmental organisations, urged EU governments to extend producer responsibility schemes and introduce more disposal taxes.
It put forward what it called an “unusually compelling case for intervention” by European authorities on waste and recycling.
In a recent report (file right) EEB identified three areas - food waste reduction, textile reuse and municipal waste recycling - in which increased regulations and use of fiscal instruments could bring significant benefits both environmentally and economically.
Under what they defined an “ambitious” scenario of reducing 60% of food waste by 2030, householders could save as much as €73bn (£60bn) and some 80 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be avoided.
Recycling at least 70% of municipal waste would bring about savings of more than €12bn, and help in taking one in six of Europe’s currently unemployed youth back to work.
Similarly, reusing or preparing for reuse 35% of textiles would save at least 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and 14 million litres of water, equivalent to a week’s worth of daily water usage by almost 30,000 people.
To achieve those benefits, the EEB recommended a range of policy measures to be taken at the European level, including:
- Extended producer responsibly, under which all organisations putting items aimed at private households onto the market paid a financial contribution for the recycling of the material
- Zero-rate VAT for reuse and service-based delivery models,
- Greater taxation and product levies to encourage recycling
- Incentives for research and development and innovation programmes to support recycling markets
“It is a genuine case where market-making through economic and environmental policy is justified and necessary,” said the EEB.