European Union focus on waste management

By Office for Official Publications of the European Communities - | - last updated :

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European Union policy concerning the protection of the environment and natural resources has steadily grown in importance since the 1980s. The reason for this is that the threats of environmental damage and depletion are still far from being under control. Fortunately, many people have become more aware of the lurking dangers and have demanded stronger action at national and, especially, European level in order to protect the environment.

As a result, the range of measures at our disposal in order to conduct environmental policy, ranging from legislation to financial instruments, has been strengthened enormously. In particular, the Treaty of Amsterdam has made the principle of sustainable development and a high level of environmental protection one of the top priorities (Article 2). Our policy has also become much broader and more diversified, covering all sectors of society and encompassing a wide range of instruments.

Some topics are of particular concern to many European citizens. One of these is the worrying increase of waste production. The Community, indeed, generates each year around 2 000 million tonnes of waste. Over 40 million tonnes is classified as hazardous. Over the last six years, the amount of waste generated grew by 10 % a year. It is clear that we must stop and reverse this trend if we want to avoid being submerged by rubbish. The European Union defined and is pursuing a strategy to that end.

This strategy is addressed in this brochure. It is intended to inform local and regional players, NGOs, policy-makers at all levels, social partners and consumers, as well as citizens. We also hope this information will give you ideas about how you can make your own particular contribution towards resolving environmental problems.