Joint statement of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations on the Occasion of White Monday, the First Day of the European Week for Waste Reduction

In their joint statement published on the occasion of White Monday, i.e. the first day of the European Week for Waste Reduction, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Dr. Ákos Kozma and Deputy Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Ombudsman for Future Generations Dr. Gyula Bándi call attention to the importance of conscious consumption, the constitutional obligation of the careful use of our natural resources, and the key role of circular economy in achieving sustainable development.

The Fundamental Law of Hungary states that “we bear responsibility for our descendants and therefore we shall protect the living conditions of future generations by making prudent use of our material, intellectual and natural resources”. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations remind that this responsibility that lies with each and every one of us requires a change of attitude equally from the part of the public, the players of the economy, and the decision-makers in order to ensure adequate living conditions for both the present and future generations.

The European Week for Waste Reduction takes place on the last week of November. During this week, institutions, companies, civil society organisations and private individuals organise various activities – with the support of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, among others – in order to draw attention to the importance of preventing and reducing waste generation as well as reusing and recycling products, i.e. to the key role of conscious waste management in the circular economy. According to its mission, the European Week for Waste Reduction seeks to encourage the members of the public to pay close attention to their everyday consumption habits all year around, thereby becoming partners in creating a more liveable, cleaner and sustainable lifestyle. These joint efforts may also contribute to achieving the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production.

The “Buy Nothing Day” takes place on the Friday of the European Week for Waste Reduction with the purpose of counteracting the effects of Black Friday, a day with the promise of huge discounts heedlessly tempting us to overconsume, which is the source of many of our environmental and social problems nowadays. In addition to this, White Monday that takes place on the first day of the European Week for Waste Reduction, offering a mid-way between overconsumption and not to buy anything at all, encourages us to consider and plan our consumption from the perspective of a circular economy. The message of the European Week for Waste Reduction is that we can spare a lot of resources by responsible consumption, and, by reconsidering our attitude, we can embark on a more conscious and sustainable path of consumer behavior that promotes the creation of a circular economy.

However, there is no waste generated in natural systems as everything serves as a basic material for something else, yet our economic system has not mostly been based on this circularity since the Industrial Revolution but rather on a single-line system, a so-called linearity. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations emphasize that the waste of resources is certainly not a mere environmental issue but also a serious economic loss. The circular economy, besides ensuring more adequate waste management, requires a change of attitude as well: a systemic approach in which the durability, reparability and recyclability of products are the primary considerations already in the course of their design and construction.

The Ombudsman and his Deputy call upon the decision-makers, the representatives of the economic sector, and the academic institutions to represent, encourage and apply an attitude that is constituent in the implementation of a circular economy in the course of their work. Simultaneously, they encourage the public for openness, reception, acceptance and adaptation, and what is more, for taking the lead, together with civil society organisations.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations underline that in the spirit of our responsibility towards our descendants – which is also set out in the Fundamental Law –, it is the obligation of each and every one of us to recognise that the footprint of our everyday decisions and consumption habits not only has an impact on our current environment but also determines how liveable world we can provide for our future generations.