Europe: wasted time?

Imagine if dumping waste into a landfill were made obsolete by the year 2020. In Europe, that's the goal: landfill dumps will be a thing of the past. The goal is to:
  1. Virtually eliminate landfilling
  2. Have reuse and recycling at maximum feasible level— limiting energy recovery to recyclable waste
  3. Decrease waste generation
EU’s "waste hierarchy" establishes that authorities will focus on prevention first, followed by reuse. Then followed by recycling and energy recovery, then landfilling at the end.*

About 37% of Europe’s waste ends up in landfills. About 25% is recycled, 15% composted and 23% burned. These stats were recently included in a great piece on the subject of plastics and waste from the EurActiv brain trust.

In the U.S., approximately 55% of our waste ends up in landfills. (It works out to over half of the estimated 251 million tons of consumer solid waste generated each year in America.)

Seeing the landfill half full?

Waste policy in Europe is aspirational, inspirational and appears to be on its way to succeeding. A new FAQ on WEEE, electronics waste directives, was published earlier this month. For an industry example, see this examination of plastics waste, published on April 28, 2014, as the EU gears up to review waste progress.

The EU is already having success managing waste. We'd be wise to see what works for them and try similar programs. For the record, visit the US EPA page on waste, see if you can untangle this: EPA approach to waste. It's gotten better. But that's the nicest thing I can think of to say about it.

* Europe's approach in a diagram:
* Diagram courtesy European Commission