Municipal waste statistics

Data extracted in March 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: March 2017.

This article shows trends in municipal waste generation and treatment in the European Union (EU) from 1995 to 2014. There is a very distinct trend towards less landfilling as countries move steadily towards alternative ways of treating waste.

Municipal waste accounts for only about 10 % of total waste generated when compared with the data reported according to the Waste Statistics Regulation (tab env_wasgen). However, it has a very high political profile because of its complex character, due to its composition, its distribution among many sources of waste, and its link to consumption patterns.

Figure 1: Municipal waste generated by country in 2004 and 2014, sorted by 2014 level (kg per capita).png ) - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)
Table 1:Municipal waste generated by country in selected years (kg per capita).png - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)

Main statistical findings

Municipal waste generated by country

Eurostat has collected and published data on municipal waste since 1995. These data are widely used for comparing municipal waste generation and treatment in different countries, and indicators on municipal waste are used to monitor European waste policies. The data on municipal waste expressed in kilograms per capita are part of a set of indicators compiled annually to monitor the EU’s sustainable development strategy.

The data cover the period from 1995 to 2014 for the 28 EU Member States (Croatia only has complete sets since 2006). For the candidate countries, coverage is as follows: The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (since 2008), Serbia (since 2006) and Turkey. For the EFTA countries, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, and the potential EU candidate country Bosnia and Herzegovina (since 2008), data are given to the extent possible.

Figure 1 and Table 1 show municipal waste generation by country expressed in kilograms per capita. To illustrate trends, Table 1 shows waste for selected years, covering the period 1995 to 2014. For better readability, Figure 1 covers only the years 2004 and 2014.  Both include the EU-27 aggregates for comparison.  In Figure 1, countries are sorted in decreasing order by municipal waste generation in 2014.

For 2014, municipal waste generation totals vary considerably, ranging from 759 kg per capita in Denmark to 272 kg per capita in Poland and Romania. The variations reflect differences in consumption patterns and economic wealth, but also depend on how municipal waste is collected and managed. There are differences between countries regarding the degree to which waste from commerce, trade and administration is collected and managed together with waste from households.

The periods 1995-2004 and 2004-2014 show the following trends in the 31 countries with complete time series, except for Greece (no data for 1995).

In 17 of the 31 countries, the amount of municipal waste generated per capita increased between 1995 and 2014. The highest average annual growth rates were recorded for Greece based on 1996 and 2013 figures (2.3 %), Malta (2.2 %) and Denmark (2.0 %). In 12 countries, the annual growth rates alternated, with a positive annual growth rate in the first years, descending and becoming negative in the last ten years .

Of the fourteen countries with an overall decrease from 1995 to 2014, only two (Bulgaria and Slovenia) showed a decrease both before and after 2004. Bulgaria showed the largest reduction, with a steady annual average decrease of -2.4 %, followed by Slovenia, -1.7 % per annum.

From 2004 on, methodologies were finalised in most countries, so the waste generation time series of 2004 and later is more accurate and stable than that between 1995 and 2003.  

Municipal waste treated in Europe

Table 2: Municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted in the EU-27, 1995 to 2014 - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)
Figure 2: Municipal waste treatment by type of treatment, EU-27, (kg per capita), 1995 - 2014 - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)

In this section, differences in the management of municipal waste are shown and treatment strategies are identified based on reported amounts of municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted. Member States were asked to distinguish between incineration with and without energy recovery. However, as no clear classification criteria have been applied so far, the comparability of results among countries and over time remains fairly limited[1] . Therefore the current data only allow the analysis of the total amount incinerated.

Table 2 shows the amount of municipal waste treated in the European Union (EU-27) for the period 1995 to 2014 by treatment method, in million tonnes and kg per capita. Figure 2 shows the amount of waste generated at EU-27 level and the amount of waste by treatment category (landfill, incineration, recycling, composting).

The ‘other treatment’ category was calculated as the difference between the sum of the amounts treated and the amounts of waste generated. This difference arises in countries that have to estimate waste generation in areas not covered by a municipal waste collection scheme and thus report more waste generated than treated. In addition, the ‘other treatment’ category reflects the effects of import and export, weight losses, double-counting of secondary waste (e.g. landfilling and recycling of residues from incineration), differences due to time lags, temporary storage and, increasingly, the use of pre-treatment, such as mechanical biological treatment (MBT). This may even lead to a rise in ‘other treatment’ for a given year. At EU-27 level, these effects contribute only marginally and tend to cancel each other out. However, at country level, the effects can be considerable.

Even though more waste is being generated in the EU-27, the total amount of municipal waste landfilled has diminished. In the reference period, the total municipal waste landfilled in the EU-27 fell by 78 million tonnes, or 54 %, from 144 million tonnes (302 kg per capita) in 1995 to 66 million tonnes (131 kg per capita) in 2014. This corresponds to an average annual decline of 4.0 %. During the last ten years (2004-2014) landfilling has fallen by as much as 5.6 % per year on average.

As a result, the landfilling rate compared with municipal waste generation, in the EU-27 dropped from 63.8 % in 1995 to 27,5 % in 2014.

This reduction can partly be attributed to the implementation of European legislation, for instance Directive 62/1994 on packaging and packaging waste. By 2001, Member States had to recover a minimum of 50 % of all packaging put on the market. With the revised recovery target of 60 % to be achieved by 31 December 2008, there was a further rise in the amount of packaging waste collected separately.

Furthermore, Directive 31/1999 on landfill stipulated that Member States were obliged to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfills to 75 % by 16 July 2006, to 50 % by 16 July 2009 and to 35 % by 16 July 2016.The reduction was calculated on the basis of the total amount of biodegradable municipal waste produced in 1995. The Directive has led to countries adopting different strategies to avoid sending the organic fraction of municipal waste to landfill, namely composting (including fermentation), incineration and pre-treatment, such as mechanical-biological treatment (including physical stabilisation).

As a result, the amount of waste recycled rose from 25.0 million tonnes (52 kg per capita) in 1995 to 66 million tonnes (132 kg per capita) in 2014 at an average annual rate of 5.2 %. The share of municipal waste recycled overall rose from 11 % to 28 %.

The recovery of organic material by composting has grown with an average annual rate of 5.3 % from 1995 to 2014. Recycling and composting together accounted for 44 % of organic material in 2014, relative to waste generation.

Waste incineration has also grown steadily in the reference period, though not as much as recycling and composting. Since 1995, the amount of municipal waste incinerated in the EU-27 has risen by 32 million tonnes or 100 % and accounted for 64 million tonnes in 2014. Municipal waste incinerated has thus risen from 67 kg per capita to 128 kg per capita.

Mechanical biological treatment (MBT) and sorting of waste are not covered directly as categories in the reporting of municipal waste treatment. These types of pre-treatment require an additional final treatment. In practice, the amounts delivered to mechanical biological treatment or sorting should be reported on the basis of the subsequent final treatment steps. However, the way these amounts are allocated to the four treatment categories (incineration, landfilling, recycling and composting) varies significantly, and some countries report only on the first (pre-)treatment step.

As a consequence, reporting on the current set of variables often requires additional information to relate the amounts of municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted to the amounts generated at country level.

Data sources and availability

The data were extracted from the Eurostat database on 14 March 2016.

Definitions

The municipal waste classification is based on the definitions for the section on waste in the OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire. Further information is available in the

MW generated / MW collected: The data refer to the amount of municipal waste generated. In countries with complete (national) coverage of their municipal waste collection scheme the total of municipal waste generated is equal to the total of municipal waste collected. Some countries do not cover their whole territory with a collection scheme. These countries have added an estimate of the waste generated in areas not covered. For some countries data prior to 2008 refer to municipal waste collected, as it was not possible to make an estimate for the population not covered.

In order to be able to compare 2013 with 2003, EU-27 is shown/analysed instead of EU-28, which is not available for 2003.

Data for France include the overseas departments (département d’outre-mer or DOM) Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion and French Guiana.

Data for Cyprus refer only to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

Data for Liechtenstein are included in Switzerland.

Context

All the data presented here were collected by Eurostat since 1995. Eurostat has conducted surveys on European waste data using the OECD/Eurostat-Joint Questionnaire as the main source. After the introduction of the Regulation 2150/2002 of 25 November 2002 on waste statistics the data collection on municipal waste based on the joint Questionnaire was continued to maintain the time series and to offer consistent data in an international context outside the EU (OECD, UN).  

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Waste statistics (t_env_wasgt)
Generation of waste by economic activity (ten00106)
Generation of waste by economic activity (hazardous, non-hazardous), 2008 (ten00107)
Generation of waste by waste category (ten00108)
Generation of waste by waste category (hazardous, non-hazardous), 2008 (ten00109)
Waste generated by households by year and waste category (ten00110)
Waste generated by households and by waste category (hazardous, non-hazardous), 2008 (ten00111)
Recovery rates for packaging waste (ten00062)
Recycling rates for packaging waste (ten00063)

Database

Waste statistics (env_was)
Waste streams(env_wasst)

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures on this page (MS Excel)

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

External links

Notes

  1. The new Waste Framework Directive now offers in Annex II an energy efficiency criterion that is expected to objectify the classification of incineration facilities and to improve data comparability. The criterion came into force by 12 December 2010.