1.1. Which is the priority order in waste management?
The new waste hierarchy as laid in the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98 is a priority order for waste management, reflecting a general approach under EU waste management law. The hierarchy sets out five possible ways of dealing with waste where prevention is prioritized against the next possible options. As a result waste prevention constitutes the best overall environmental option in waste legislation and policy.

   

1.2. What is waste prevention?
Waste prevention is defined by Article 3(12) of Directive 2008/98 as follows: 
‘Measures taken before a substance, material or product has become waste that reduce: 

  • the quantity of waste, including through the re-use of products or the extension of the life span of products; 
  • the adverse impacts of the generated waste on the environment and human health; or 
  • the content of harmful substances in materials and products‘. 

Whereas reducing the amounts of waste can be called quantitative waste prevention, reducing the content of harmful substances in materials and products can be termed qualitative waste prevention. 
The OECD notes that waste prevention is distinct from recycling and other waste management efforts which are applied only when products and materials are recognized as waste. 
Technically, ‘prevention’ is not a waste management operation because it concerns substances or objects before they become waste. Consequently, obligations under waste management legislation (permits and registration, inspections, requirements for transfrontier shipments) do not apply.

1.3. Why does waste prevention matter?
Preventing waste generation, we:

  • manage our natural resources sustainably
  • lower our ecological footprint, and
  • reduce the cost of waste management. 

The WASP Tool project promotes waste prevention through helping local authorities to prevent waste generation. 

1.4. What is ‘re-use‘?
In Article 3(13) of Directive 2008/98, the following definition of ‘re-use’ is laid down: ‘Any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived‘.
Re-use is a means of waste prevention; it is not a waste-management operation. For example, if a person takes over a material, e.g. piece of clothing, directly from the current owner with the intention of re-using (even if some repairing is necessary) it for the same purpose, this comprises evidence that the material is not a waste.

1.5. Can you provide some examples of waste prevention?
Some examples of waste prevention measures in Member States are the following:
Awareness among businesses, for instance online information portals on resource-efficient production (including energy efficiency) which are financed by competent authorities. For the public awareness and information campaigns which may be carried out at local, regional and national level they usually address various target groups and preferably priority waste streams of a Member State (e.g. food waste, textile waste, construction & demolition waste). The Environmental Management Systems (EMAS, ISO 14001) can also have a crucial role  e.g. introduction of regional or national programmes for the promotion of EMAS. The target is to encourage both public and private organisations to improve their overall environmental performance by, inter alia, increasing waste prevention and methodically improving resource efficiency or the ecolabelling of products which are environmentally friendly, e.g. because of their material and energy-efficient production, the absence of hazardous substances, etc. Even the substitution of hazardous substances in products by environmentally-friendly substances to reduce the danger posed by products and waste is a waste prevention example. Finally the economic instruments which can be realized by the introduction of incentives, taxes, deposits and obligatory payments, for example = the introduction of a carbon tax on packaging, the establishment of leasing systems (e.g. for cars, high-tech office equipment, etc.) or the promotion of re-use centres, online re-use platforms and repair networks for household goods or subsidising second-hand shops have proved to have good results in waste prevention.