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Waste: Should we buy less or dispose better?


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Our consumption of natural resources has spiralled out of control. It’s become clear that something needs to change: if not in our pace of consumption, then at least in our methods of disposal.


What methods do we have to slow down the production model?

What should we do about the plastics and waste that are already causing problems?

The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has selected some of its resources to provide young people like you with background information and insights linked to the topic above.

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The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has selected some of its resources to provide young people like you with background information and insights linked to the topic above.


10 March 2021
Buy less and buy sustainably, but also sell properly. The thing that is causing more concern than others, regarding the production and environment questions, is plastic packaging. This is the first thing the production area needs to move forward from.

The amount of unnecessary plastic that every supermarket store uses, which is often, in addition, non-recyclable, is quite large. Although most companies are already getting better, for example using compostable materials for bags and other single-use packaging, there is still a lot of products sold in plastic. Which adds up to the waste we already have piled up.

So, what could be the solution? I believe we need to act collectively, as consumers and production managers to do both: educate more people on why buying products in plastic packaging harms the environment, and introduce more waste-free shopping alternatives as well. Sometimes plastic packaging on groceries can be absolutely unnecessary, as most vegetables have their own "organic packaging". As well as laundry products, cleaning products, that can be sold in a way, where people can come and fill in their own glass containers. Personal hygiene products, porridge, milk, pretty much everything we see in stores can be sold without plastic if the ideas of reusable containers and buying by weight were wide-spread not only between consumers but in the production industry as well.
22 February 2021
1)Make every food company change their product materials from plastic to other like glass or hemp .
2) make every company provide their products via vending machines (advanced vending machines with more functionalities like keeping count of remaining products or measuring the levels of remaining liquids inside etc , so companies can keep the vending machines full and working) or employees where each citizen must go with his own jars, bottles or packages to obtain the product he/she desires. Raise the prices for those who want to buy a new product without their own packaging or offer new glass packaging at every store . This way each citizen will get accustomed to carrying their own bottles and jars and grow a true litter free consciousness .
In other situations like restaurants with wines and products that require air tight packaging other materials should be used instead of plastic and recycling should be a must.
I think we all can live quite easily carrying one bottle or two for all our drinking needs in a day and when shopping is needed everyone should bring his own jars and bottles. Or create a new food packaging jar which has many slots for different foods so someone can buy a variety of things with one easily transportable multi -storage/packaging tool.
06 February 2021
We should do both - buy less AND dispose better.

Education and knowledge sharing is the way.
Educated people know how much they can help our planet, each other and themselves too, if they behave responsibly, if they are responsible consumers and even more so, responsible buyers.

I would sum up in these 3 basic rules:

1. Never buy more than you need. Do not buy things just because you can afford them or just because they are cheap.
2. When deciding whether to buy something, always ask yourselves: “Do I really need this?” “Is this a quality product that lasts long and does not create too much waste immediately?”
3. Teach your children how to be responsible to our planet and lead by example for all your friends, family and peers. Leading by example while sharing knowledge is stronger and less irritating than telling people what to do.

I would love to appeal on every European citizen, especially on those of us who have enough money to buy stuff with 3 more specific ideas:
1. In a restaurant, never order more food/beverages than you are able to consume. (So many times I see rich people leaving 50% of food (or more) on their plates after leaving a restaurant. Restaurants always have to throw this food out!)
2. Flying a plane mostly leaves a huge trace and hurts our planet and environment much more than many other aspects combined. Do not fly just for the sake of flying. Always think twice when planning a flight, choose other types of transport whenever viable and first of all, reconsider your needs - e.g: do I really need to fly 20 times a year? Isn’t 5 times more than enough?
3. Do not create waste. And if you do, use it well. Best way of solving the dilemma about waste is not creating it.
And if you have to create waste, separate every piece of it that can return to the cycle.

Let’s save our planet together.
Being rich should be about being responsible, too.
Being a leader even more so.
29 January 2021
In my opinion, the key to sustainibilty should be education. We, as the youth, should be taught the alternatives of non-sustainable goods, such as washable maxipads or period cups for girls, shampoo bars instead of regular shampoo, bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic one and so on. The point is not to have couple of people who live in a full zerowaster way, but to make as many people as possible create less and less waste. There are bunch of alternatives that everyone could use without having to change their lifestyles completely, but unfortunately most of us just aren't aware of them, and most of us don't even think that this is an issue we should be worried about, since we have no education on it. (At least in my country)
Theodor Ilie
25 January 2021
We creat plastic and nature don't have a efficient way to deal with it. We should limit to extrem the use of it, colect and burn the existing big pieces. Create nano bots to deal with micro plastics.
Our pace of consumptions is off the charts. We buy thinks just because we can afford them and because they are available. Having a digital product should be cheaper than a fizical one. If electronics have nergy efficiency, clothing should have too.
Producers should build a product that they can recicle or consumer can compost it.
The word garbage should not longer be used.
22 January 2021
I think that in order to reduce waste and sources of pollution it would be important to adopt a system of daily reuse of some substances, for example organic ones.
These, rather than being burned, could constitute natural compost, thusing an excessive emission of fumes and gases that usually represent the main characteristics of the global warming.
This last one is, unfortunately still today, a very big problem for our planet and for all the future human generations.
Every citizen should feel invested every day not only in the role of a good saver in the exploitation of energy sources, but above all in the daily useful disposal of the organic substances used.
We don't let that the organic substances continue to represent a bulky waste....
With every little action we can change the world; let's do it togheter!!!!
21 January 2021
I think we have both buy less and dispose better, because encouraging the formation of large amounts of waste is very dangerous for the environment, and buying less things, we could reduce the consumption of food, and plastic.
So,I think that to have good results, it is important that citizens and industries collaborate, producing fewer plastic items, and trying to use them as little as possible.
Emanuele Pio
17 January 2021
I think it's important to buy less for reducing waste of many things, like food, plastic and others. It's very important to recycle every single thing appropriately. In my opinion the European Parlamient should should remove disposable products from trade. Citizens must also do their part to avoid unnecessarily polluting by wasting food. The European parliament should also devise a law on things that must be produced in a safe and eco-sustainable way by multinationals that export the goods to European territory. We need to produce as little plastic as possible if we want to continue living on this planet.
Luisa Ingrid
11 January 2021
I think that it should be banned that agro-food companies can throw food away, especially if it is fruits or vegetables because they can sell it or donate it to animal farms as feed. Local Authorities could manage channels so that the food companies can contact farms or farms to food companies to facilitate the communication between them. By this, food is not wasted, the companies get a free service of managing the output they do not want and the farm has free or cheap natural feed. There are regions and companies that are already doing this but I think it should be done all around Europe.
25 May 2020
L'idée selon laquelle recycler nos déchets plastiques est toujours supérieure à l'incinération ne me semble pas bien justifiée. Le recyclage est elle même une activité polluante alors que l'incinération permet de produire de l'électricité et potentiellement de réduire notre consommation d'énergies fossiles. Le recyclage de nos déchets comporte des risques environnementaux, le pire étant lorsque nos déchets se retrouvent en Asie.

La primauté donnée au recyclage est une invention de l'industrie pétrochimique pour donner bonne conscience à nous consommateurs.

Le seul dogme en matière de déchet plastique et qu'il faut en produire moins. Mais attention aux effets pervers de cette décision: gâchis alimentaire, matière de substitution encore moins écoresponsable.
Guilherme Azambuja
14 January 2020
What we are faced with is a classic market faillure problem where there is information assymetries and time inconsistency. As most people have realized the diagnosis of the problem has been accurately done: We produce too much waste, and in forms which are unfriendly and costly to treat in a safe way.

Lowering the amount of waste should be easy, but as we have seen over the last 3 decades of waste directives, the focus needs to change. First, the recycling market needs not only access to funds and subsidized credits in order to set up infrastruture and capacity (which is necessary given the economies of scale of the sector). But most importantly we need to remember that recycling is the last step and has, throughout the years, captured too much of the agenda. The National governments should face the fact that market intervention is not only needed but also beneficial for the circular economy but also for the environment. 2 Short examples follow:
1. Secondary raw materials (materials which result from some sort of recycling process) are rarely price competitive. If price is the deciding factor, then governments need to create incentive to push for raw materials substitution - decoupling needs to happen or else recycling brings little to the table.
2. Buying something new is often cheaper than having your items repaired (take the electric and electronic equipment). The new EC regulation 2019/2021 makes it easier for the repair market to access information and spare parts, but the fact is that repair is still far more expensive and time consuming than buying new. But if repair is the best environmental option, because it keeps all the materials in use and replaces the non functioning ones, then why is not being subject to incentive schemes, tax exemptions, etc? The repair sector is by far less environmentally damaging than producing new goods but prices fail to capture this dimension.
marila alfano
12 November 2019
We need new real recycling politics, oriented towards a circular economy based principles. With this I am not saying that 'we should recycle better our wastes' but that we should first of all start reusing all our packaging and think twice before purchasing something that will be then immediately thrown away. New politics should be introduced for all the takeaway food shops, pushing them to start using re-usable packages. For example it could be possible to create a 'fidelity' service were the costumer uses and re-takes to the shop (or gives back to the delivery man) the package used to deliver the food. Another option would be to stop using one use cups, either via the payment of a deposit or by incouragin people to around with their own re-usable mugs. It's a complete shift in the mentality of society but those are just small necessary steps that could help for the bigger shift that, I think, is imminent.
Billy Warren
08 August 2019
Although many consumers are attempting to buy products with less packaging, a large sector of society is constrained, to a certain extent, by price. This results in consumers being forced to buy products with more packaging as it is actually cheaper. In turn, this causes a climate where people do not expect to pay the true price of their purchase in the sense that buyers only pay for the product, not the cost of the creation and disposal of packaging. To reduce excess packaging, governments should place a 'packaging tax' on poducts packaged in hard to recycle materials, meaning cheaper products are also the least impacting on the environment. Thus, to combat waste, both better disposal practices and greater government intervention in supermarket pricing are important but a focus on the latter, in my view, would make a greater impact. Intervention from the highest level at the soonest point would make the largest impact on waste and preserve the most natural resources.