What is waste prevention?

What is waste prevention?

Preventing waste means reducing the amount of waste generated, reducing the hazardous content of that waste and reducing its impact on the environment.

It is based on a simple concept: If you create less waste, you consume fewer resources and you don't have to spend as much money to recycle or dispose of your waste. For instance, repairing your old bicycle instead of buying a new one is a perfect way to reduce waste.

It is also important to note that individuals and businesses can often save a significant amount of money through waste prevention: waste that never gets created doesn't have management costs (handling, transporting, treating and disposing of waste). The rule is simple: the best waste is that which is not produced!

Waste prevention includes strict avoidance of waste generation, qualitative and quantitative reduction at source, and reuse of products. It does not include recycling of materials and separate waste collection.

What is the approach at EU level?

According to Eurostat, each European produces on average 502 kg of waste per year (2010). The importance of waste prevention is nowadays fully recognized and generally considered as a priority within EU, as well as national and regional authorities’ waste management strategies and plans, but many efforts still need to be made.

The EU Waste Framework Directive sets waste prevention as the top level in the waste management hierarchy and pushes for the implementation of waste prevention before any other waste management solution. The hierarchy is thus the following:

  • prevention
  • preparing for re-use
  • recycling
  • other recovery, e.g. energy recovery
  • disposal


What about Pre-waste?

The Pre-waste project is designed to improve the effectiveness of waste prevention policies in EU territories in order to significantly reduce waste production and hazardousness, through a close collaboration of local and regional authorities, public entities and other stakeholders. Within this project, participants agreed to apply the waste prevention definition of the EU Waste Framework Directive, which states that "prevention" means measures taken before a substance, material or product has become waste, that reduce:

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

In order to help cities and regions to develop and implement efficient waste prevention policies, Pre-waste aims at gathering and disseminating waste prevention good practices, proposing a web tool allowing monitoring of waste prevention strategies and publishing some guidelines to help local and regional authorities in their waste prevention policies.

In October 2011, an international training session took place in Bucharest, Romania, in order to help cities and regions develop and implement waste prevention strategies and transfer waste prevention good practices.

How to develop and implement an efficient waste prevention policy?

Local and regional authorities will eventyually have to develop and implement waste prevention strategies in order to comply with the national waste prevention programmes. Moreover, cities and regions are in charge of managing municipal waste, so it is their interest to reduce the amount of waste generated on their territory. Pre-waste developed a common methodology to enable regional and local authorities to implement an effective waste prevention policy in terms of planning, monitoring and implementation.

It’s time to prevent!