In accordance with Article 11 of the Waste Framework Directive Member States should take measures to promote reuse and preparing for reuse such as encouraging the establishment of reuse and repair networks. The European Environmental Agency published a review of waste prevention programmes in Europe in accordance with Waste Framework Directive (EU, 2008). The review focuses on reuse and describes how reuse is addressed in the 33 national and regional waste prevention programmes that had been adopted by the end of 2017. In addition, the report provides data on the status of and trends in reuse systems in Europe.
The content of the document is presented in 4 chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the concept of waste prevention in a circular economy and explains the policy context, key terms used and review’s approach. Chapter 2 looks at the existing waste prevention programmes, their scope and reuse objectives, measures and indicators, as well as the sectors and stakeholders addressed. Chapter 3 analyses the status of and potential for reuse for key product groups (i.e. textiles, electrical and electronic equipment, furniture, vehicles, and buildings and building components). Chapter 4 concludes with key findings and prospects for reuse in the context of the circular economy agenda.
The analysis highlights that reuse bridges waste prevention and the circular economy. Specifically, reuse, as well as preparation for reuse, can link the waste hierarchy of the Waste Framework Directive and the EU Communication on 'Closing the loop – an EU action plan for the Circular Economy'. The authors also point out that understanding reuse in different sectors requires technical knowledge (e.g. with regard to 'design for repair'), insight on economic incentives (with labour costs as a key factor) and especially consumption patterns.
Furthermore, the report concludes that there are significant differences between national approaches undertaken. All 33 waste prevention programmes analysed include specific waste prevention measures related to support for reuse systems. Many countries have initiated reuse networks that offer high-quality second-hand products to consumers. The report states that voluntary agreements are most frequently mentioned as specific policy measures (47 %), followed by informational instruments (35 %). Only 10 % of the programmes implement or aim to implement regulatory measures and only 8 % use or plan to use economic instruments. Many reuse activities are often at least partly financed by programmes that aim to reintegrate long-term unemployed people or people with disabilities into the labour market. This aspect of reuse activities was addressed by some Interreg Europe projects as well. For example, as part of interregional learning process RETRACE project partners identified successful examples from European regions focused on promoting better professional and social integration of people at risk of social exclusion by offering them employment in the field of reuse and recycling.
The analysis concludes that although reuse and preparation for reuse are high on the political agenda, the concepts remain imprecise. They include very different activities, such as individual sales at flea markets and organised waste management, as well as third sector activities. Challenges that remain to be addressed include the lack of common waste prevention targets and indicators, data quality issues and time lags between the adoption and implementation of waste prevention programmes. Analyses of circular economy and resource efficiency aspects is required to understand waste generation trends and drivers, and link them to overall waste prevention efforts.