Treating waste as a resource and the design of a circular economy have been identified as key approaches for resource efficiency. Despite ambitious targets, policies and instruments that would enable a transition from a conventional waste management to an integrated and comprehensive resource management are still missing. Moreover, this will require innovative policy mixes which do not only address different end-of-pipe approaches but integrate various resource efficiency aspects from product design to patterns of production and consumption. Based on the results of a project funded by the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development named “POLFREE—Policy Options for a resource efficient economy”, this paper addresses several aspects of the conceptualization of policy mixes with regard to waste as a specific resource efficiency challenge. The guiding research interest of this paper is the combination of policies necessary to create a full circular economy. In a first step, the present waste policy frameworks, institutions and existing incentives at national level are examined in order to disclose regulatory and policy gaps. Based on this, the second part of the paper describes and analyses specific waste-related resource efficiency instruments with regard to their potential impacts under the constraints of various barriers. Based on the assessment of the country analyses and the innovative instruments, the paper draws conclusions on waste policy mixes and political needs.
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