Report shows Europeans are learning the benefits of doing more with less

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Resource efficiency in European countries has improved in recent years, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The report More from less – material resource efficiency in Europe looked at 32 out of the 39 member countries and found that resource use had fallen between 2000 and 2014 in both absolute terms by 12% and per person from 15.5 to 13.1 tonnes per person.

However, a lot of this was down to a slowdown in construction during the economic crisis.

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The report shows that a key challenge will be to ensure that resource efficiency gains are sustained and that the long-term link between economic growth and increased resource use does not return.

It also noted that only three countries have developed national strategies for material resource efficiency – Austria, Finland and Germany. But both Flanders in Belgium and Scotland in the UK have also developed strategies.

A majority of countries (26) identified certain waste streams and secondary materials as the most common group of priority materials.

Key waste streams are plastic and packaging (17 countries), construction and demolition waste (16 countries) and food waste (15 countries).

Manufacturing was singled out most frequently as the key economic sector for improving material resource efficiency followed by agriculture and forestry, construction and waste management.

Although the report considers the service sector significant for material use and resource efficiency, very few countries saw it as a priority despite delivering 70-75% of GDP in most countries.