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Waste prevention and innovation

Generation of waste is continuing to increase rapidly across EU. Although a slight relative decoupling from GDP has been noticed in recent years, the environmental problems related to waste generation and waste management are growing. It is clear that the current situation is not sustainable but that absolute decoupling is needed in order to come to terms with the many severe environmental impacts stemming from waste. Consequently, there is a great need for changes in production as well as consumption and, thus, waste policies which induce innovation leading to sustainable consumption pattern and reduction of environmental impacts should be sought.

One of the most challenging problems in policy analysis is the difficulty in singling out policy interventions and evaluating their impact, especially in the case of innovation impact of waste policy, where innovation is often not the original designed focus of the policy. Furthermore, while the rhetoric of policy making processes and the identification of chosen policy measures and even the construction of instruments to be used in policy implementation maybe easy to identify and follow as they most often are explicit in statements, reports and rules, in contrast the implementation and the impacts of policy interventions are more difficult to study. This is not least because specific policy interventions most often do not stand alone, but also the interventions are influenced by on one hand the policy discourse itself and the views and intentions expressed herein, on the other hand by other policy instruments with different objectives. Overlapping policies coming from different fields of policy with very different objectives or even counter measures set in motion by involved actors might be as powerful as the policy action studied.

Towards a better understanding of waste policy and its impact on innovation and in the context of the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste and of the Waste Framework Directive, a study, "Waste prevention, waste policy and innovation" has been carried out by a project team on the behalf of EC JRC-IPTS. The project team was formed under the European Science and Technology Observatory (ESTO), consisting of The Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Management (IPL) of Technical University of Denmark (DTU), The Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), The Danish Topic Centre on Waste, DTCW, and Danish National Environmental Research Institute (NERI).

Based on the main elements and key findings of the study, this report presents a methodological approach that could be useful to further research on the relationship between waste policy and innovation and illustrates, through the analysis of several waste steams as case studies, the potential impacts of waste policy on innovation.




The mission of the JRC is to provide customer-driven scientific and technical support for the conception, development, implementation and monitoring of EU policies. As a service of the European Commission, the JRC functions as a reference centre of science and technology for the Union. Close to the policy-making process, it serves the common interest of the Member States, while being independent of special interests, whether private or national.