- Data extracted in September 2015. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: October 2016.
This article gives an overview on the development of waste generation and treatment in the European Union (EU) and several non-member countries; it draws exclusively on data collected within the framework of Regulation 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. Landfills, for example, take 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
Total waste generation
In 2012, the total waste generated in the EU-28 by all economic activities and households amounted to 2 514 million tonnes; this was slightly higher than in 2010 and 2008 (2 460 million tonnes and 2 427 million tonnes) but lower than in 2004(2 565 million tonnes); the relatively low figures for 2008 and 2010 may, at least in part, reflect the downturn in economic activity as a result of the financial and economic crisis. As shown in Table 1, there were considerable variations across EU-28 Member States in 2012, both in the amount of waste generated and in the activities that mostly contributed to waste generation.
Figure 1 shows the share of each economic activity and of households in total waste generation in the EU-28 for 2012. Construction contributed 33 % of the total (with 821 million tonnes) and was followed by mining and quarrying (29 % or 734 million tonnes), manufacturing (11 % or 270 million tonnes), households (8 % or 213 million tonnes) and energy (4 % or 96 million tonnes); the remaining 15 % was waste generated from other economic activities.
The total waste generated by economic activities and households in 2012 may also be expressed in relation to population size (see Figure 2). The average amount of waste generated across the EU-28 in 2012 was equivalent to almost five tonnes (4 982 kg) per inhabitant. However, big differences between EU Member States can be observed (see Figure 2), which are mainly due to differences in the generation of mineral waste.
A majority (63 %) 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 sizeable mining and quarrying activities (such as Bulgaria, Finland, Estonia, Sweden and Romania) and / or construction and demolition activities (such as Luxembourg). These two activities accounted for 3.0 tonnes out of a total of 3.2 tonnes per inhabitant of mineral waste, equivalent to 93.5 % of the total mineral waste generated across the EU-28 in 2012.
Waste generation excluding major mineral wastes
In the EU-28, 922 million tonnes of waste excluding major mineral wastes were generated in 2012, equivalent to 37 % 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 2012 (see Figure 3). While the overall level of waste excluding major mineral wastes fell 3.7 % between 2004 and 2012, the quantity per inhabitant fell by 5.8 % (as the EU’s population also grew over this period).
Across the EU Member States, waste generation excluding major mineral wastes ranged, in 2012, from an average of 620 kg per inhabitant in Croatia to 8.6 tonnes per inhabitant in Estonia.The big quantity of waste generated in Estonia is related to the extraction of oil from oil shale .
Figure 4 shows the development of EU-28 waste generation excluding major mineral waste analysed by economic activity. In 2012, the highest levels of waste generation were recorded for households and manufacturing activities (208.1 million tonnes and 200.7 million tonnes). Their developments followed a different pattern over time: waste generation by households in 2012 was similar to the level it had been in 2004,whereas waste generated by manufacturing fell by 26 % during this period. The quantity of waste generated by mining and quarrying and by agriculture, forestry and fishing also diminished considerably by 25 % and 49 % respectively over the period under consideration, while the amount of waste generated from water and waste management (61 % ) and from construction (45 % ) grew at a rapid pace..
Hazardous waste generation
Hazardous waste may pose a risk to human health and to the environment if not managed and disposed of safely. Hazardous waste comes from both mineral waste and waste excluding major mineral wastes. Among the waste generated in the EU-28 in 2012, some 99.9 million tonnes (4.0 % of the total) were classified as hazardous waste (see Table 2). This was equivalent to an average of 198 kg of hazardous waste per inhabitant in the EU-28.
Compared with 2010, 2.0 % more non-hazardous waste was generated in 2012 in the EU-28 and 2.6 % more hazardous waste, the latter increasing in quantity terms from 97.5 to 99.9 million tonnes. In 2012, 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 41.6 % share of the total, and for Ireland 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 Table 2, Serbia recorded the highest share of hazardous waste in total waste generation (26.3 %) due to intensive activity in mining and quarrying, and was followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina (21.2 %) and Norway (12.7 %).
Figure 5 shows the amount of hazardous waste that was generated per inhabitant in 2004 and 2012 (note that the figures include all hazardous waste categories, including minerals). 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 2012 across EU Member States ranged from a low of 27 kg per inhabitant in Greece to a high of 593 kg per inhabitant in Luxembourg. For Luxembourg the amount is mainly due to construction activities.
Between 2004 and 2012, the EU-28 experienced a 10 % increase in hazardous waste generation per inhabitant. The large increases in some EU Member States (for example, Latvia and Denmark) were offset, to some extent, by reductions in 11 other Member States (for example, Cyprus, Portugal and Romania).
In 2012, some 2 302 million tonnes of waste were treated in the EU-28; this includes the treatment of waste imported into the EU and the reported amounts are therefore not directly comparable with those on waste generation. Table 3 presents more information in relation to the types of waste treatment operation that were employed. Almost half (48.3 %) of the waste treated in the EU-28 in 2012 was subject to disposal operations other than waste incineration; for simplification this is called landfilling in this article. A further 36.4 % of the waste treated in the EU-28 in 2012 was sent to recovery operations other than energy recovery and backfilling, for simplification this is called recycling in this article. 9.3 % of the waste treated is backfilled. 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 6.0 % of the waste treated in the EU-28 was sent for incineration: 4.4 % with energy recovery and 1.6 % 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 recovery (other than energy recovery) rates (for example, Slovenia, Italy, Belgium, Poland and Germany), while others favoured waste disposal (for example, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Malta).
Waste disposal of 35.9 million tonnes accounted for almost half (47.8 %) of the hazardous waste that was treated in the EU-28 in 2012 (see Table 4). Some 10.5 million tonnes (or 13.9 %) of all hazardous waste was incinerated or used for energy recovery, and 28.8 million tonnes (or 38.3 %) was recovered.
Figure 6 shows the development of waste treatment in the EU-28 for each of the main treatment categories during the period from 2004 to 2012. The quantity of waste treated by disposal in 2012 was slightly (0.4 %) lower than it had been in 2004. The quantity of waste recovered (excluding energy recovery) grew from 890 million tonnes in 2004 to 1 053 million tonnes in 2012, and increased by 18.3 %. As a result, the share of recovery in total waste treatment rose from 42.1 % in 2004 to 45.7 % by 2012. Waste incineration (including energy recovery) saw an overall increase between 2004 and 2012 of 27.4 %.
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 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 five reference years, namely, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Data for 2006 for the EU-28 are not currently disseminated but are expected to be available in the future.
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 the 7th Environment Action Programme, sets the following priority objectives for waste policy in the EU:
- To reduce the amount of waste generated;
- To maximise recycling and re-use;
- To limit incineration to non-recyclable materials;
- To phase out landfilling to non-recyclable and non-recoverable waste;
- To ensure full implementation of the waste policy targets in all 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 Statistics Explained on 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 (2014 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 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