From Waste to a Sustainable Resource Management

The European Commission identifies the transition process to a circular economy and the treatment of "waste as a resource" as a key strategy for a resource efficient Europe. However, establishing waste management as part of a sustainable resource management framework means profoundly transforming one of the most important interfaces of socio-industrial metabolism.

From a resource-based perspective, waste is first and foremost to be avoided, which also includes increased reuse of products and single components. Repair and dismantling or the "upgrading" of second-hand products is required by the European Waste Framework Directive, for example. However, appropriate policies, guidelines, and indicators are still almost non-existent.

Waste separation
Sorting at source can substantially support the recovery of waste.

Waste is not only recycled to reduce the amount of disposal; its primary aim is to supply the production process with inputs for further production. "Waste" thus competes with primary resources. A true circular economy should aim at avoiding the downcycling of raw materials contained in waste, in particular by developing resource-based targets instead of solely weight-based ones. This will require innovative approaches to global resource management for waste that go beyond a mere transfer of environmental burdens.

Within its Circular Transitions Research Unit, the Wuppertal Institute develops strategies and concepts for a low-waste, resource-efficient society. The socio-economic, technical, and institutional challenges this entails are analysed and innovative approaches are developed and realised in cooperation with practice partners. Key areas include the development and evaluation of national waste prevention programmes, the optimisation of individual material flows (platinum group metals, copper, plastics) by research scientists at the Circular Systems Research Unit, and the further development of concepts of extended producer responsibility concepts (waste electrical and electronic equipment, end-of-life vehicles).


Here you find publications on waste and resource management.

Related publications

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New Biennial Eco-innovation Observatory Report draws attention to digital circular policies and technologies

Understanding the Transformation Processes in Heavy Industry

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New waste report lists measures to avoid plastic waste

Product Reuse is the Key to Waste Prevention

New EEA-report out now

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Report published with Henning Wilts as lead author

National Policies for Resource Efficiency and Waste Management

Structures, impacts, and deficits

A New SAPIENS Issue Is Online

With special topic Resource Efficiency

Waste to Energy

Book on energy-from-waste approaches

Waste Prevention: Study Identifies Suitable Measures for National Programme

Federal Environment Agency publishes report for download

Environmental Implications and Costs of Municipal Solid Waste-Derived Ethylene

Article in the Journal of Industrial Ecology


Here you find research activities in the field of waste and sustainable resource management.

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