Resource Use

European Week for Waste Reduction launches


The European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) has kicked off, and this year promises a ‘record number’ of awareness-raising ‘actions’ about sustainable resource and waste management.  

In this year's ‘federative project’ (running 16-24 November), a ‘record’ 12,682 actions focusing on the ‘3Rs’ (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) will be implemented in 23 countries (compared to 10,793 actions in 2012) through the work of 34 coordinators who have mobilised stakeholders and ‘validated’ their actions.

The fifth annual EWWR – co-financed by EU's LIFE+ programme, coordinated by the Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and Sustainable Resource Management (ACR+), and Chaired by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik – promises an ‘updated programme of action’ and a renewed focus on waste prevention.

Speaking at the beginning of EWWR, Potočnik said: "There is enormous potential in reusing and recycling waste. We are making great progress in moving up the waste hierarchy… reducing landfilling and increasing recycling. Grassroots initiatives like the European Week of Waste Reduction are an important way of involving everyone in the creation of a zero-waste society."

EWWR focus

The fifth EWWR aims to ‘increase awareness about how we can change habits in Europe, and also to encourage debate on issues of resource efficiency and circular economy’, whilst developing and testing new communication tools in order to tackle the 2.5 billion tonnes of waste generated by EU member states annually.

Accordingly, this week places a reinforced emphasis on the topic of waste prevention (the highest rung in the European waste hierarchy) and aims to raise awareness of resource efficiency and the circular economy, whilst extending its scope to include recycling initiatives across Europe.

These initiatives focus on countries where recycling rates and awareness remain relatively low as ‘huge discrepancies remain’ despite European trends ‘improving slowly’. Indeed, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, demonstrates that national rates vary from one per cent to 60 per cent waste recycled, whilst the average EU inhabitant generates 503 kilogrammes (kg) of waste annually, with only 40 per cent recycled or composted.

However, under the European Commission’s Waste Framework Directive, all European member states must recycle 50 per cent of household waste by 2020. According to the EC, the full implementation of the Waste Framework Directive (which gives priority to prevention, reuse and recycling over incineration, with landfilling or incineration without energy recovery the ‘last resort’ for waste management), would save €72 billion a year (£60 billion), increase the annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by €42 billion (£35 billion) and create over 400,000 jobs by 2020.

UK EWWR actions

A total of 2,385 ‘validated actions’ related to EWWR are taking place across the UK this week.

Northern Ireland

Most of the UK’s EWWR actions will take place in Northern Ireland, where the majority of the 2,335 actions revolve around the theme of food waste and promoting the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. Many of the actions are being implemented by individual citizens who will take different steps to reduce the waste they produce in everyday life and encourage family, friends, colleagues or the public to do the same.


Scotland will host 104 actions this week, co-ordinated by Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS). Many of them will circle around the topic of this year’s 'Prevention Thematic Days', which focus on reuse, such as an activity collecting and distributing construction material for reuse.


Of the 40 validated actions taking place in England:

  • 11 in London will be co-ordinated by the London Community Resource Network and include an information stall on food waste prevention, set up in seven different boroughs across North London;
  • seven in Merseyside and Halton, co-ordinated by Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority, will see councils substitute disposable towels, glasses and other items of daily use by reusable items in their staff kitchen and other places;
  • 23 in Oxfordshire, co-ordinated by Oxfordshire County Council, will include ‘Broken Spoke Cycle Workshops’, where participants can learn how to repair their bikes themselves; and
  • seven in Warrington, co-ordinated by the local borough council, will include a road show promoting the use of reusable nappies.


Waste Awareness Wales has announced that it has six events taking place connected to EWWR, which include:

  • 18 Nov – waste reduction workshop, Pembroke Primary School in Chepstow
  • 18 Nov – community clean up at Aberffraw
  • 19 Nov – 'Keep the planet healthy' games in Anglesey
  • 20 Nov – food waste recycling promotion, Guildhall Square, Carmarthen (11am-2pm)
  • 21 Nov – waste prevention community event, Carbonne Close in Monmouth
  • 21 Nov – Waste reduction and recycling teachers' pack launch, Primary School, Anglesey

Private participation

A number of private companies are have also announced their indirect participation in the week. For example, the waste research and consulting firm Eunomia has produced a free Waste Prevention Toolkit (WPT) to ‘assist local authority recycling and waste minimisation officers in determining the impact and cost of a range of waste prevention initiatives’.

The WPT is based on recent work undertaken by Eunomia for the Welsh Local Government Association, which led to the development and rollout of the WLGA Waste Avoidance Toolkit. The WPT is a simplified version that has been amended to be of use to all UK local authorities.

Emma Gowing, Specialist Technical Advisor at Eunomia, said: “I hope that councils will find the WPT useful in supporting their drive to reduce waste – and waste collection costs. I am planning to hold a number of web seminars in the coming months to help WPT users, and would be grateful for any feedback on the tool so that we can continue to improve and enhance it.”

Read more about EWWR 2013 and Eunomia’s Waste Prevention Toolkit.