Back Plastic packaging waste: 38% recycled in 2020

20 October 2022

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In 2020, each person living in the EU generated 34.6 kg of plastic packaging waste on average. Out of these, 13.0 kg were recycled

This information comes from data on packaging waste published by Eurostat today. The article presents a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.


Line graph: Plastic packaging waste generated and recycled in the EU, kg per capita, 2010-2020

Source dataset: env_waspac


Between 2010 and 2020, the volume of plastic packaging waste generated per inhabitant increased by 23% (+6.5 kg). The recycled volume of plastic packaging waste increased over the same period, by 32% (+3.2 kg). Despite this improvement, the amount of plastic packaging that wasn’t recycled increased by 3.4 kg per inhabitant since 2010 due to the greater increase in the absolute amount of plastic packaging waste generated.

Less plastic recycling due to change in method

In 2020, stricter rules for reporting recycling entered into force. These include a harmonised calculation point for recycling and stricter accounting of composite packaging material fractions. Due to that, a provisional decrease of 3 percentage points was observed (from 41% in 2019 to an estimated 38% in 2020).  


Bar chart: Recycling rate of plastic packaging waste, %, 2020

Source dataset: env_waspac


The Netherlands, Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain, Bulgaria and Cyprus recycled more than half of their plastic packaging waste generated. In contrast, less than one-third of plastic packaging waste was recycled in Malta, France, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, Poland and Austria.


For more information:


Methodological notes:

  • EU: 2010, 2011 and 2020 data on waste generated and recycled are estimated.
  • Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Finland, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, and Romania: 2019 data. Comparison to 2020 data only partly possible due to the change in compilation methods for reference year 2020. For details see Decision 2005/270/EC as last amended by Decision 2019/665/EC.
  • Slovakia: definition differs. Please see the metadata. 
  • For the calculation of kilograms per capita, the national amounts of waste generated and treated are divided by the average population of the relevant year. 


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