Those over-achieving Europeans are making us Americans look bad...12 European Union (EU) member states have achieved recycling targets of 55% ahead of schedule.

What can we learn from the European program that will work across the pond?



Those over-achieving Europeans are making us Americans look bad. According to the European Organization for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) from data released by Eurostat, 12 European Union (EU) member states have achieved recycling targets of 55% ahead of schedule (deadlines range between 2008 and 2012). In fact, the the average among all 27 EU member states is at 69%.

Not only that, but from 1998 to 2006, the EU market reduced the amount of non-wood packaging sent to landfills by 33%. And they did this while gross domestic product (GDP) grew 40% in the same nine-year period. (Usually packaging consumption grows as GDP grows).

Julian Carroll, managing director of EUROPEN, says, “The latest EU data on packaging consumption clearly demonstrates that Europe has taken a proactive, innovative and collaborative approach to reducing packaging waste. Europe’s success in this regard would not have been possible without the commitment of Europe’s citizens, who are amongst the world’s most active recyclers.”

Whatever they’re doing is obviously working. Maybe we could set up a citizen exchange program and bring some of those active recyclers here to infect the rest of us.

Yes, I know Americans are different from Europeans. And America is different from Europe. But seriously. What can we learn from the European program that will work across the pond?