How European waste collection systems can benefit from the multitude of practices available in Europe

Each year, 2.5 billion tonnes of waste is generated in the European Union. Equivalent to five tonnes per person. The waste we generate contains large volumes of valuable materials for Europe’s industry, such as paper, wood, industrial minerals, and metals. This is despite the fact that some of these valuable materials can already be recycled close to 100%, with no losses in quantity and quality, such as glass and steel. Therefore, it is crucial that separate collection of waste is done properly in order to ensure the optimal material value recovery.

The current trend of increasing collection rates, encouraged by EU legislation, is promising but it does not match the urgency required to address the problems we face. Not only does progress need accelerating, but it is also currently occuring unevenly between different EU Member States. We believe that showcasing the good examples of waste collection practices across Europe has the potential to serve as catalysts for action from other regions and municipalities.

Therefore, since 2018, with several partners throughout Europe, we have been playing a key role in helping identify and highlight existing good practices of waste collection and sorting within the EU through the EU H2020 COLLECTORS project. The project specifically focuses on three waste streams: paper and packaging, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and construction and demolition waste (CDW). The aim of the project is not only to harmonize and disseminate available information on those good waste collection systems, but to both gain a better insight into the overall performance of systems and to support decision makers in shifting to better-performing systems, through building the capacity of decision makers on this topic and by establishing clear guidelines on how to implement strong, effective waste collection systems. The project also explored the economic, social and environmental features of well-performing waste management systems across Europe. 

We believe that communities and cities across Europe should be adopting Zero Waste strategies, based on citizen-centered models, that lead to a substantial decrease in waste generation and an increase in separate collection and recycling. Through the COLLECTORS project, we are raising the profile of leading municipalities who are implementing high-performing separate collection systems. Through an increased profile and recognition of these successful waste collection strategies, we believe this will help stimulate further action from municipalities that will accelerate the transition towards zero waste at the city level.

The project closed in December 2020 and the material created within the project can be found on the H2020 Collectors website


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