Issue: March 2016, A roundabout, not a one-way street – Making sustainable waste management work


Editorial

A better world tomorrow?

Editorial by Michael Sailer, CEO, Oeko-Institut

617 kilos: that’s the average amount of waste generated by every German every year. That means that at my age, I have produced more than 38 tonnes of waste in my lifetime – perhaps slightly less, assuming that we lived in a less wasteful society in the past. As children, we learned what could be thrown away and what was to be used for a long time. Not that I am harking back to the “good old days”: on the contrary, we can all remember the problems that affected waste disposal well into the 1980s. In those days, landfill was the default option for the disposal of all types of waste, with no thought given to recycling or reducing the volume of waste. And as mountains of hazardous waste built up at poorly secured landfill sites, toxins leached into groundwater and methane from landfill gas escaped into the atmosphere.

So what do we need from a sustainable circular economy today? In this issue of eco@work, we provide some answers. Less and cleaner: these two keywords describe at least part of the solution. We consider how we can produce less waste, how we can put it to good use as a source of energy and materials in a circular economy, and how we can ensure that problematical waste streams are treated and disposed of properly. We look at how Germany and Europe are tackling these challenges. And we revisit the facts in more detail: how much waste is being produced, and where? Which preconceptions exist in relation to waste and recycling, and how do we tackle them? Just how useful is waste separation in reality? And in our interview, Stéphane Arditi from the European Environmental Bureau tells us how the EU member states are trying – and succeeding – to move towards a circular economy.

I hope you enjoy this issue of eco@work.

Yours,

Michael Sailer
CEO, Oeko-Institut
m.sailer--at--oeko.de

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