EU Waste Strategy

UK waste strategies and the legal framework for waste management within the UK are strongly influenced by the actions of the European Union. It is therefore important to understand the key elements of EU waste policy and the Directives and Regulations that are derived from it.

Central to current EU waste policy, contained in the “Community Strategy for Waste Management (1996), is the objective of prevention in terms of both the quantity of waste generated and the hazardous content of waste. However, this strategy has been ineffective in reducing the amount of waste generated, with levels continuing, on average, to rise. The need to take further action to reduce waste was recognised in the European Commission’s Sixth Environmental Action Program which establishes as one of its four major priorities, the need to ‘ensure the sustainable management of natural resources and wastes.’ In order to achieve this objective the Commission identifies the following actions:

In 2003 the European Commission launched a consultation process on future policy in the area of waste management. A consultation document ‘Towards a Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste” was issued in 2003 with a view to a new waste management policy being adopted in 2005.

The main elements of European waste legislation are:

For further information please refer to the diagram in legislation section ‘Waste Legislative Process’

Waste Watch has produced a useful information sheet that describes the main areas of European and national legislation affecting waste management. This can be accessed at