Sustainable and efficient use of natural resources is one of the key aspects of environmental protection while increasing economic efficiency. The benefits provided by natural ecosystems include food, water, wood, air purification, soil formation, pollination, and so on. However, these alone are not something eternal, indestructible and unlimited. Man’s activities often have a negative impact on the level of biodiversity and the preservation of healthy ecosystems. We have already taken some steps towards sustainable use in resource management (eg in reducing generated and separating municipal waste), but there are still many untapped opportunities.
Turning waste into a resource
The concept of a “circular economy” in which nothing is discarded is crucial in the pursuit of more efficient use of resources. Waste prevention, reuse and recycling reduce the need for natural resources and the energy consumption associated with their recovery, thus mitigating negative environmental impacts. Data for Slovenia indicate that it is necessary to improve collection systems, while the shares of recycling of collected waste achieve the set goals. We cannot ensure proper management of certain types of waste, so we export them.
Consumers are one of the driving forces influencing the use of natural resources and waste generation through their lifestyle. In 2012, 672 thousand tons or 327 kg per capita of municipal waste were generated. Separate collection and other measures reduce the share of landfilled municipal waste (in 2012; 47%). Most waste is generated in production and service activities (3.7 million tons in 2012). The exploitation of natural resources (mostly mineral raw materials mainly for construction) in Slovenia has been declining since 2007.
The main measure in the field of encouraging the transformation of waste into a resource is the Waste Management Program, which will start implementing a new approach to waste treatment as an umbrella strategic document. These are a source of raw materials and the five-level waste hierarchy needs to be considered in policy planning and legislation: waste prevention, preparation for re-use, recycling, other recovery processes, waste disposal.