Resource efficiency and lower carbon emissions through waste reduction

Resource efficiency and lower carbon emissions through waste reduction

Main findings

The reuse of discarded consumer goods improves resource efficiency, reduces carbon emissions and contributes to a circular economy. Reuse takes place through many different routes and involves many actors. This complexity makes monitoring and increasing reuse challenging.

Recycling is commonly preferred to reuse by waste managers, reflecting a systemic problem with the collection and handling of discarded goods.

A life-cycle approach is needed to increase reuse, from changing design to improving reverse logistics operations for discarded items.

Recovery routes and practices should enable discarded items to remain in good condition. Improved reverse logistics, including more convenient disposal points for unwanted goods, would benefit consumers and enable manufacturers to recover value from discarded items.

Recovery is generally limited at present to materials that are easily salvageable. Recycling processes need to recover critical raw materials present in small quantities.

Legislation should address barriers to repair, individual producer responsibility, and appropriate standards in the reuse sector.

Upcycling is mostly limited at present to small scale, craft based enterprises but has potential to be scaled-up considerably.

Information for consumers concerning repair, reuse and recycling remains inadequate. There is confusion around collection networks, particularly for small electrical goods, which often end up in residual waste streams.