The main goal of waste management is to reduce the amount of waste. We therefore propose that the key indicators to be propagated and inscribed into law on the EU level be those based on per capita volumes of non-recycled and non-reused waste posing a burden to the environment.
This way, it would be possible to verify the progress made by high-consumption societies in achieving environmental goals and also to promote countries, where waste production per capita is low, which makes their “initial” negative impact on the environment much smaller.
National law, strategy documents (national and regional waste management plans), and programs (Operational Programme ‘Infrastructure and Environment’ and Regional Operational Programmes) need to be readjusted in order to provide support for the shift toward the Circular Economy entailing, first of all, waste reduction at the source, reuse of products, and separate collection and recycling of raw materials.
Although waste prevention has been given the highest priority, it still is the least developed in terms of management, evaluation, and integration with other waste management steps in the hierarchy. It is necessary to introduce changes to the national and EU laws that would facilitate easier and cheaper repairs, while significantly increasing the longevity of products. Better repairability means more jobs, also in the social business sector, offering employment to people affected by social exclusion.
Likewise, there is a need for legal changes aimed at improving the rates of separate waste collection at source. Separate collection of especially organic waste holds the key to a better quality of raw materials, higher recycling rates, and reduced amounts of residual waste. Furthermore, it translates into a substantial rise in the number of new jobs and helps maintain a less energy-intensive economy. We are against spending public money on the construction of waste incinerators. As demonstrated by the examples of communities carrying out the Zero Waste projects, it is possible to reduce the amount of waste, boost employment and lower the operating cost of the system, all without having to build any incineration plants.
All stakeholders must take part in the creation of the complementary system. The residents ought to be included in the decision-making and system design processes, since the attainment of waste reduction and recycling goals is dependent on them. Local administration should remain open to consultations, take care of streamlining the system in a continuous manner and report on its effects.
Local governments should act as the catalysts for positive change: Encourage, enable, exemplify, engage. Sometimes it is better to make the first move instead of waiting for the national or EU institutions to take action. Bottom-up initiatives are the key to success and are much more effective because of e.g. higher citizen participation or the ability to shorten both the product and waste loops.