Waste prevention and material efficiency

Waste prevention

Waste prevention is not only the first principle of the circular economy in accordance with the current Waste Management Act (KrWG). Examination of all production and consumption processes for the purpose of optimisation, i.e. the ongoing reduction or complete prevention of waste, should be the primary goal of all waste management efforts.

Moreover, waste prevention is pivotal for resource conservation. Efforts to extend the lifespan of products, reduce material input during production, intensify their use period, and many other approaches result in raw material input reduction and resource consumption. In addition, total waste volumes are reduced across the entire production chain.

The building and construction sector in particular is associated with enormous raw material demand. Mineral waste volumes are considerable higher than waste mass flows arising from any other sector. However, the foodstuff industry produces an annual total 80 kg of waste per capita. Both the ethics of this statistic, and the fact that agriculture and foodstuff production in itself are associated with high resource consumption and environmental burdens, are highly questionable.

Material efficiency

Efficient resource consumption in general, and material efficiency in particular, are key strategies for the overall reduction of resource consumption in a country. The efficiency approach attempts to achieve the same effect with reduced material input, or superior outcomes with the same quantity of material. Efficiency measures in this context may be analysed and implemented at different levels. Germany was among the first countries to address the central theme of natural resource conservation with the adoption of the German Resource Efficiency Programme (ProgRess), thus placing action strategies in a policy context. ProgRess I and II describe approaches and measures for the optimisation of resource efficiency along the entire value chain. These recommendations include optimised supply of materials and products as well as efficient use by the consumer. The establishment of preferably closed recycling loops at the end-of-life stage is another key challenge of the resource efficiency strategy. ifeu participates in a number of projects exploring the development of policy strategies in both national and international contexts. Additional key areas of research include the analysis of efficiency potentials of materials by means of material flow analyses and Life Cycle Assessments.


UBA Coffee To Go

The project analyses the volume of to-go cups for hot beverages in Germany, their waste management relevance and their impact on resources and the environment. The aim is to derive recommendations for…


Systemic thinking is required to develop a high-quality recycling system aimed at avoiding downcycling where possible through reductions in quality. The entire value chain must be taken into account,…


The overriding objective of this research project is to develop and substantiate an urban mining strategy by tapping into resource-saving potential in the production, use and dismantling of buildings,…