With a dense population and few resources, it is essential for Europe to reduce its dependence on the Earth's finite natural resources.
We need Europe to become a sustainable economy and, above all, a circular – green – economy.
In a circular economy, one industry's waste becomes another's raw material.
Waste becomes a resource, a secondary raw material.
In place of built-in obsolescence, companies need to take responsibility for product aftercare, repairing and recycling where needed.
An added benefit is that this will create jobs and revitalise the industrial sector.
It's not a small change. It represents a major shift in the way we work and live.
It takes a long time to change a ship's course and the economy is about the biggest ship we could attempt to turn.
The EU has set a target of making the European economy sustainable by 2050. This is why we are working on a review of EU waste policy.
The main objective will be to stop the waste of valuable secondary raw materials and make sure they are reused, recycled and reinjected into the economy.
We want to bring about a decline in waste-generation, make sure recycled waste is used as a major, reliable source of raw material and reserve landfilling for waste that can be neither recycled nor recovered.
There are policy steps to be taken, but there are small personal ones as well.
We can take steps to reduce waste each day – sharing, selling or donating unwanted items and buying durable goods.
The European Commission's Generation Awake website – www.generationawake.eu/en/ – has more tips and background on how our buying choices make a difference.
We aren't going to move to a society where consumption is a thing of the past.
But we need to move to a vibrant, circular economy that respects the limits of nature, makes the most of natural resources, creates jobs and ensures long-term well-being and quality of life.
- Janez Potocnik is European Commissioner for Environment