Resource efficiency and waste
The global environmental problems that we face today are largely due to the depletion of natural resources – and so on. a. (fossil) fuels, mineral resources, water, soil and biodiversity – owed by man. It is becoming increasingly clear that the prevailing model of Europe’s economic development, with its high resource consumption, waste generation and high levels of environmental pollution, is no longer sustainable in the long term.
The European Union (EU) today relies heavily on imports, and we need twice the total land area of the EU to meet our resource needs. Many of the resources are only used for a short time, or they are lost to the economy because they land on landfills or are recycled to inferior materials (downcycling). This not only affects the environment, but also the competitiveness of our economy.
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The solution is obvious, but not so easy: to achieve economic growth with fewer natural resources or, in other words, “make less” more. Improving our resource efficiency is therefore a key component of a long-term environmental policy, reflected in strategic documents such as the Seventh Environmental Action Program (7th EAP), the EU’s Resource Efficiency Roadmap and the EU Circular Economy Action Plan.
The European economy needs uninterrupted and undisturbed supply of natural resources and materials, including water, agricultural products, wood, metals, minerals and energy sources, with a significant portion of these materials coming from imports. This dependency could become more critical as global competition for natural resources intensifies.
Many natural resources are unevenly distributed around the world, with the result that access to them is becoming increasingly volatile, prices are increasingly fluctuating and conflict potential is increasing. Fluctuating prices can also disrupt the industries that depend on these resources and force companies to lay off workers, defer investment or stop providing goods and services.
At the same time, the rapid increase in the extraction and extraction of natural resources is associated with a large number of negative impacts on the environment within and outside Europe. Air, water and soil pollution, acidification of ecosystems, loss of biodiversity and waste generation endanger short, medium and long term economic and social wellbeing.
Increasing resource efficiency is key to achieving sustainable socio-economic progress in a world of finite resources and limited ecosystem capacity, but is not enough. After all, increasing efficiency is merely an indication that performance is growing faster than resource consumption and emissions. It does not guarantee an absolute reduction in environmental impact to levels that are sustainable in Europe and around the world.
The sustainability of European production and consumption systems can not only be assessed by whether production is growing faster than resource consumption and the associated burden (“relative decoupling”). On the contrary, it must also be taken into account whether there are signs of “absolute decoupling”, where production increases while resource consumption decreases.
In addition to the decoupling of resource consumption and economic performance, however, it must also be assessed whether the environmental impact of the resource consumption of society is reduced (“decoupling of environmental impacts”).
EU policy on the topic
In the 7th EAP, increasing resource efficiency is named as one of the three main goals to realize the 2050 Vision “Living well within the limits of our planet”:
Protection, preservation and enhancement of the natural capital of the Union;
Transition to a resource-efficient, environmentally friendly and competitive low-carbon economy in the Union;
Protecting EU citizens against environmental pressures, health risks and quality of life risks.
These objectives are closely linked and underpinned by different but interlinked policies, such as the EU Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe and the Roadmap for the transition to a competitive, low carbon economy.
Non-manufacturing craft businesses
The variety of different craft businesses should not be presented here in detail. Every facility has conditions where it will host an operational waste management concept, be it an example of an electrician, a hair salon, a building cleaner, a motor vehicle or bicycle repair shop, a tailor shop, a carpentry, a stonemason or a laundry.
A whole range of the industries mentioned are also involved in the repair of objects, helping to extend their service life and prevent waste. As far as possible, industrial waste should be avoided in the factories and, as unavoidable waste, separated into individual fractions as valuable material for material or energy recovery. Separating the waste should also be worthwhile for the operation in terms of eco-profit.
Clinics, medical practices and therapeutic facilities, pharmacies
It is not too often prescribed too large drug packages or even agents that are already predictably not taken by the patient.
In clinics and medical practices can be observed again and again that packaging material in not insignificant amounts together with contaminated, potentially infected waste is disposed of as residual waste. This is resource-inefficient and more expensive than recyclable material separation. However, as long as these costs can be allocated to the health insurances and thus to the insured, there is often little reason to follow the positive experiences from the Ökoprofit projects, for example in Munich (profit through environmental protection).