To reduce the amount of waste produced and reduce the environmental and health impacts, EU legislation established a clear treatment hierarchy stipulating waste prevention, reuse and recovery whenever possible in order to turn the disposal of waste into the last treatment option.
For this purpose waste management plans are to be established by Member States as such planning is the cornerstone of any national, regional or local policy on waste management. Indeed, the establishment of a plan allows, taking stock of the existing situation, to define the objectives that need to be met in the future, to formulate appropriate strategies and identify the necessary implementation means.
Apart from this, the new Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC requests Member States to establish waste prevention programmes integrated either into the waste management plans or into other environmental policy programmes. The programmes shall set out the waste prevention objectives, include a description of the existing prevention measures and evaluate the usefulness.
There have been visible efforts in waste prevention and management in the EU in recent years, reflected by a reduced growth in waste generation related to the growth of income and production as well as a drop in landfilling from 60% to 41% with alternative ways of treatment having become more important. Available information however, shows that enforcement and implementation of the legal requirements is not easy and considerable challenges remain.