- Data extracted in October 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: November 2018.
This article gives an overview on waste generation and treatment in the European Union (EU) and several non-member countries as well as its development. It draws exclusively on data collected in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 2150/2002 of the European Parliament and Council on waste statistics.
Waste, defined by Directive 2008/98/EC Article 3(1) as ‘any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’, potentially represents an enormous loss of resources in the form of both materials and energy. In addition, the management and disposal of waste can have serious environmental impacts. Landfill, for example, takes up land space and may cause air, water and soil pollution, while incineration may result in emissions of air pollutants.
EU waste management policies therefore aim to reduce the environmental and health impacts of waste and to improve the EU’s resource efficiency. The long-term aim of these policies is to reduce the amount of waste generated and when waste generation is unavoidable to promote it as a resource and achieve higher levels of recycling and the safe disposal of waste.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
Main statistical findings
Four detailed tables are attached towards the end of the article.
Total waste generation
In 2014, the total waste generated in the EU-28 by all economic activities and households amounted to 2 598 million tonnes; this was the highest amount recorded for the EU-28, for which a times series exists (data for even years) since 2004. As shown in Figures 1 and 2, there were considerable variations across EU-28 Member States in 2014, both in the amount of waste generated and in the activities that mostly contributed to waste generation.
As might be expected, the overall amount of waste generated is related to some extent to the population and economic size of a country. In Figure 1, the smallest EU Member States generally reported the lowest levels of waste generation and the larger ones the highest. Nevertheless, it can be seen that relatively high quantities of waste were generated in Romania (2012 data) and Bulgaria and a relatively low quantity in Italy.
Figures 2 and 3 show the share of each economic activity and of households in total waste generation in 2014. Construction contributed 33.5 % of the total in 2014 (with 871 million tonnes) in the EU-28 and was followed by mining and quarrying (29.8 % or 774 million tonnes), manufacturing (9.8 % or 256 million tonnes), households (8.1 % or 209 million tonnes) and energy (3.7 % or 95 million tonnes); the remaining 15 % was waste generated from other economic activities, mainly including waste and water services (8.8 %) and services (3.8 %).
The total waste generated by economic activities and households may also be expressed in relation to population size (see Figure 4). The average amount of waste generated across the EU-28 in 2014 was equivalent to more than five tonnes (5 118 kg) per inhabitant. However, big differences between EU Member States can be observed (see Figure 4), which are mainly due to differences in the generation of mineral waste.
Almost two thirds (65 %) of the total waste generated in the EU-28 was mineral waste. The relative share of mineral waste in the total waste generated varied considerably between EU Member States, which may reflect, at least to some degree, different economic structures. In general, those Member States that had higher shares of mineral waste were those that were characterised as having relatively sizeable mining and quarrying activities (such as Bulgaria, Sweden, Finland and Romania) and/or construction and demolition activities (such as Luxembourg). These two activities accounted for 3.1 tonnes out of a total of 3.3 tonnes per inhabitant of mineral waste, equivalent to 93.7 % of the total mineral waste generated across the EU-28 in 2014.
Waste generation excluding major mineral wastes
In the EU-28, 917 million tonnes of waste excluding major mineral wastes were generated in 2014, equivalent to 35 % of the total waste generated. When expressed in relation to population size, the EU-28 generated, on average, 1.8 tonnes per inhabitant of waste excluding major mineral wastes in 2014 (see Figure 5). While the overall level of waste excluding major mineral wastes fell 2.6 % between 2004 and 2014, the quantity per inhabitant fell by 5.3 % (as the EU’s population also grew over this period).
Across the EU Member States, waste generation excluding major mineral wastes ranged, in 2014, from an average of 723 kg per inhabitant in Croatia to 9.5 tonnes per inhabitant in Estonia. The large quantity of waste generated in Estonia is related to energy production based on oil shale.
Figure 6 shows the development of EU-28 waste generation excluding major mineral waste analysed by economic activity. In 2014, the highest levels of waste generation were recorded for water and waste services, for households and for manufacturing activities (210 million tonnes, 204 million tonnes and 185 million tonnes). Their developments followed different patterns over time: waste generation (excluding major mineral waste) by water and waste services increased by 90 % between 2004 and 2014. The quantity of waste (excluding major mineral waste) generated from construction also grew at a rapid pace (58 %). At the same time, waste generated (excluding major mineral waste) by households remained quite stable. Waste (excluding major mineral waste) generated by manufacturing activities fell by 32 %. Likewise the quantity of waste (excluding major mineral waste) generated by mining and quarrying and by agriculture, forestry and fishing diminished considerably, by 24 % and 42 %, as did the quantity of waste generated (excluding major mineral waste) from other sectors.
Hazardous waste generation
Hazardous waste may pose an elevated risk to human health and to the environment if not managed and disposed of safely. Hazardous waste comes from both mineral and non-mineral waste: the data presented in Figures 7, 8 and 9 include all hazardous waste categories, including minerals. Among the waste generated in the EU-28 in 2014, some 95.6 million tonnes (3.7 % of the total) were classified as hazardous waste (see Figures 7 and 8). This was equivalent to an average of 188 kg of hazardous waste per inhabitant in the EU-28 (see Figure 9).
Compared with 2010, 5.9 % more non-hazardous waste was generated in 2014 in the EU-28 and 1.9 % less hazardous waste, the latter decreasing in quantity terms from 97.5 to 95.6 million tonnes. In 2014, the share of hazardous waste in total waste generation was below 10.0 % in all of the EU Member States except for Estonia, where it made up a 47.7 % share of the total, and for Ireland (2012 data) where its share was 10.3 %. The very high share for Estonia was principally due to energy production from oil shale. Among the non-member countries shown in Figure 8, Serbia recorded the highest share of hazardous waste in total waste generation (27.4 %) due to intensive activity in mining and quarrying, and was followed by Montenegro (24.4 %), Bosnia and Herzegovina (21.2 %, 2012 data) and Norway (12.1 %).
Figure 9 shows the amount of hazardous waste that was generated per inhabitant in 2004 and 2014. The particularly high figures for Estonia, Bulgaria and Serbia may be largely attributed to the mining of specific natural resources present in these countries. Aside from these special cases, the generation of hazardous waste in 2014 across EU Member States ranged from a low of 20 kg per inhabitant in Greece to a high of 426 kg per inhabitant in Luxembourg. For Luxembourg the relatively high amount is mainly due to construction activities.
Between 2004 and 2014, the EU-28 experienced a 4 % increase in hazardous waste generation per inhabitant. The large increases in some EU Member States (for example, Latvia, Denmark, the Netherlands and Lithuania) were offset, to some extent, by reductions in 11 other Member States, most notably in Romania (2004–2012) and Portugal.
In 2014, some 2 145 million tonnes of waste were treated in the EU-28 (see Figure 10); this includes the treatment of waste imported into the EU and the reported amounts are therefore not directly comparable with those on waste generation.
Figure 11 presents more information in relation to the types of waste treatment operations that were employed. More than two fifths (43.6 %) of the waste treated in the EU-28 in 2014 was subject to disposal operations other than waste incineration; for simplification this is called landfilling in this article. A further 39.0 % of the waste treated in the EU-28 in 2014 was sent to recovery operations other than energy recovery and backfilling, for simplification this is called recycling in this article. Just over one tenth (10.8 %) of the waste treated was backfilled, where backfilling is the use of waste in excavated areas for the purpose of slope reclamation or safety or for engineering purposes in landscaping. The remaining 6.5 % of the waste treated in the EU-28 was sent for incineration, either with energy recovery or without. Significant differences could be observed among the EU Member States concerning the use they made of the various treatment methods. For instance, some Member States had very high recycling rates (for example, Italy and Belgium), while others favoured landfill (for example, Bulgaria, Romania (2012 data), Greece, Sweden and Finland).
Figure 12 shows the development of waste treatment in the EU-28 for each of the main treatment categories during the period from 2004 to 2014. The quantity of waste landfilled in 2014 was 16 % lower than it had been in 2004. The quantity of waste recovered (excluding energy recovery), in other words recycled or used for backfilling, grew by 20.1 % from 890 million tonnes in 2004 to 1 069 million tonnes in 2014; as a result, the share of such recovery in total waste treatment rose from 42.1 % in 2004 to 49.9 % by 2014. Waste incineration (including energy recovery) saw an overall increase between 2004 and 2014 of 29.6 % and its share of the total rose from 5.1 % to 6.5 %.
In total, 75.6 million tonnes of hazardous waste were treated in the EU-28 in 2014. Nearly half (49.1 %) of this total was deposited into or onto land or through land treatment and release into water bodies (disposal other than incineration), see Figure 14. Some 6.0 % of all hazardous waste was incinerated without energy recovery and a further 7.4 % with energy recovery. 37.5 % of hazardous waste in the EU-28 was recovered (recycled or used for backfilling) in 2014.
Data sources and availability
In order to monitor the implementation of waste policy, in particular compliance with the principles of recovery and safe disposal, reliable statistics on the production and management of waste from businesses and private households are required. In 2002, Regulation (EC) No 2150/2002 on waste statistics was adopted, creating a framework for harmonised Community statistics in this field.
Starting with reference year 2004, the Regulation requires EU Member States to provide data on the generation, recovery and disposal of waste every two years. Data on waste generation and treatment are currently available for even reference years from 2004 to 2014.
EU waste management policies aim to reduce the environmental and health impacts of waste and improve Europe’s resource efficiency. The long-term goal is to turn Europe into a recycling society, avoiding waste and using unavoidable waste as a resource wherever possible. The aim is to achieve much higher levels of recycling and to minimise the extraction of additional natural resources. Proper waste management is a key element in ensuring resource efficiency and the sustainable growth of European economies. For more information see the Europe 2020 strategy.
Accordingly, the revised Waste Framework Directive of 2008 introduced a five-step waste hierarchy where prevention is the best option, followed by re-use, recycling and other forms of recovery, with disposal such as landfill as the last resort. In line with this hierarchy, the 7th Environment Action Programme sets the following priority objectives for waste policy in the EU:
- reduce the amount of waste generated;
- maximise recycling and re-use;
- limit incineration to non-recyclable materials;
- phase out landfilling to non-recyclable and non-recoverable waste;
- ensure full implementation of the waste policy targets in all EU Member States.
Furthermore, the waste management domain is the second most important contributor to employment growth in the environmental economy as shown by environmental goods and services (EGSS) accounts. For more information see the article Environmental economy - employment and growth.
- End-of-life vehicle statistics
- Municipal waste statistics
- Packaging waste statistics
- Recycling — secondary material price indicator
- Waste shipment statistics
- Waste statistics — electrical and electronic equipment
- Environmental economy — employment and growth
Further Eurostat information
- Environmental statistics and accounts in Europe (2010)
- Energy, transport and environment indicators pocketbook — 2015 edition
- Waste indicators on generation and landfilling measuring sustainable development 2004–2010 — SiF 22/2013
- Manual on waste statistics
- Waste (t_env_was), see:
- Waste generation and treatment (t_env_wasgt)
- Waste (env_was), see:
- Waste generation and treatment (env_wasgt)
Methodology / Metadata
- Waste generation and treatment (ESMS metadata file — env_wasgt_esms)
Source data for tables and figures (MS Excel)
- Environmental Data Centre on Waste
- Regulation (EC) No 2150/2002 of 25 November 2002 on waste statistics
- Regulation (EU) No 849/2010 of 27 September 2010 amending Regulation (EC) No 2150/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council on waste statistics
- Being wise with waste: the EU’s approach to waste management
- European Commission — DG Environment — Waste in the EU
- European Environment Agency — Waste and material resources
- Thematic strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste