EU poll finds householders out of touch on waste

Almost 60% of EU residents do not think their household produces too much waste, according to a survey published today. But this is in stark contrast to statistics that show […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Almost 60% of EU residents do not think their household produces too much waste, according to a survey published today.

But this is in stark contrast to statistics that show Europeans throw away on average more than half a tonne of rubbish every year.

Today’s European Union-backed survey gauged perceptions, attitudes and practices of EU citizens concerning resource efficiency, waste management and recycling.

One of the main findings is an overall lack of awareness about just how much waste individual households generate. In 21 of the 27 EU countries, most people said their homes did not produce too much waste. The number of citizens holding this opinion was highest in Latvia (73%), Bulgaria (74%) and Romania (75%). Overall, only 41% of Europeans surveyed thought the opposite.

The people surveyed also made low estimates about the amount of food they throw away. About a tenth said they did not waste any of the food they purchased, while around 7 in 10 estimated that 15% or less of the food that they bought went to waste.

Yet according to a UK study by the Waste & Resources Action Programme, 25% of food bought by households is thrown away, of which 60% is avoidable.

In almost all EU countries, the majority of respondents agreed that better waste collection services were needed in their community. Some 63% of those surveyed supported the idea of making producers pay for the collection and recycling of waste as a way to achieve this.

However, only 38% favoured making households pay for the waste they produced. Support for this approach varied from country to country, gaining most favour among Italians (65%) and finding least support among the Maltese (14%).

Nonetheless, 75% of EU citizens would prefer to pay an amount related to the quantity of waste generated by their household rather than pay through their taxes. Similarly, roughly 60% of those surveyed would prefer to include the cost of waste management in product prices rather than via taxes.

An overwhelming majority (86%) of EU citizens said they would buy products made of recycled materials. Willingness to buy such products ranged from 51% in Lithuania to 96% in Sweden and Denmark. Overall, almost 7 in 10 EU citizens said they were willing to buy certain products second-hand, such as furniture, electronic equipment or textiles. The proportion of those willing to buy second-hand products ranged from 40% in Slovakia to more than 80% in Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “This survey shows that most of us do not realise how much we are really throwing away. Where waste cannot be prevented we must use it as a valuable resource. Much of our waste can be re-used or recycled – from food and garden waste to old mobile phones. And being resource-efficient can even save us money – reducing food waste, for example, could save EU households around €500 a year.”