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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Generation of non-mineral waste in EU-27 by sector / Generation of non-mineral waste in EU-27 by sector (SCP 014) - Assessment DRAFT created Mar 2012

Generation of non-mineral waste in EU-27 by sector (SCP 014) - Assessment DRAFT created Mar 2012

Indicator Assessment Created 26 Jan 2012 Published 07 Mar 2012 Last modified 04 Dec 2012, 10:25 AM

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Generic metadata


Waste and material resources Waste and material resources (Primary topic)

Household consumption Household consumption

Green economy Green economy

waste generation | waste
DPSIR: Driving force
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • SCP 014
Temporal coverage:
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Key policy question: Is the total generation of municipal, service, industrial and hazardous waste in Europe reducing?

Key messages

Generation of total wastes excluding mineral wastes in the EU-27 decreased by 6% between 2004 and 2008. At the sectoral level waste generation by households, the construction industry and the water supply, sewerage and waste management sector increased while waste from other sectors saw absolute reductions. Increases in waste from the water supply sector can be viewed as a positive trend having resulted from improvements in waste water treatment in the EU. Although relatively decoupled from growth in GDP, the continuing rise in annual generation of household waste is of concern, suggesting a rise in consumption of material goods.

Development in generation of non-mineral wastes by economic activity

Note: Absolute amounts of waste generation in EU27 for all economic activity categories excluding mineral wastes

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Development in generation of non-mineral wastes by economic activity

Note: Time series (indexed to base year 2004) of waste generation in EU27 for all economic activity categories excluding mineral wastes

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

The indicator shows developments in total generation of wastes by sector excluding mineral wastes. Mineral wastes have been excluded because the sheer volume of these wastes dominates over all other waste types and hides developments of other waste types. For example, mineral wastes from the quarrying and mining sector alone stood at 716 million tonnes in 2008, nearly as high as total non-mineral wastes from all sectors at 886 million tonnes for the same year.

Such mineral wastes, dominated by mine tailings and overburden, are in general inert and present little relevance to SCP either in terms of material input further up the production chain which could be avoided, or hazardous waste presenting an environmental risk (contaminated soils present an exception to this general rule).

Non-mineral waste generation is dominated by manufacturing, households, the service sector and the water supply, sewerage and waste management sector. The majority of wastes from the first three sectors represent resource inputs upstream i.e. along the production of finished or semi-finished goods which are then consumed by the sector. Therefore a reduction in waste generation by these sectors implies a reduction in demand for resources during upstream processes and in associated environmental pressures.

Waste generated by these sectors is also typically non-inert and potentially cause environmental impact during treatment via emissions to air, soil or water including GHGs.  A reduction in waste generation can also reduce these environmental pressures.

Total generation of non-mineral wastes in the EU-27 decreased by 6%  between 2004 and 2008, most of this decrease occurring over the second two year period. GDP increased by 9% over the same period. Thus the general picture for waste prevention as part of SCP appears to be positive.

When viewed at the sectoral level the picture is more nuanced. All apart from 3 sectors saw absolute decoupling of non-mineral waste generation from GDP.

The most dramatic apparent progress was made in the agricultural sector with a 44% reduction of non-mineral wastes from this sector over the four year period. However, it appears that these reductions have mostly resulted from changes in reporting practices. Reporting on agricultural wastes is very inconsistent between countries. A few include manure in their reporting while most don’t. It is such differences in reporting that cause three countries – Romania, Poland and Spain – to be responsible for approx. 70% of non-mineral agricultural wastes reported in 2004. All three countries reported significant reductions in these wastes between 2004 and 2008. Hungary, Greece, Lithuania and Belgium have also seen large reductions in reported agricultural wastes during this period.

According to a waste statistics validation report for Eurostat (Argus, 2011) the large reductions reported in the countries (with the exception of Belgium) were a result of either changes in reporting during the period or a result of an increasing amount of manure reused in agriculture. Changes in reporting fell into three types: a) ceasing to include manure in waste statistics; b) ceasing to include the fraction of manure which is reused in agriculture; and c) ceasing reporting on agricultural wastes altogether.

Of these causes of reductions in reported agricultural wastes, only increases in the quantities of manure reused on land as a fertiliser can be considered to be a change in practice and a waste prevention measure. Real reductions in waste generated by agriculture are therefore far lower than the apparent 44% reduction reported. This will also have had some influence on the 6% decrease in total non-mineral wastes from all sectors across the EU-27 as a whole. If agricultural waste was left out of the total, non-mineral waste generation would have seen only a 2% reduction 2004-2008.

Reductions in sectors other than agriculture were 11% or less. Generation in waste from the manufacturing and services sectors saw reductions of 11% and 4% respectively implying reductions in resource inputs upstream and reductions of environmental pressures from waste treatment downstream. Waste reduction performance in manufacturing differed between the various manufacturing industries. In the EU-27 as a whole, the largest waste reductions were seen in the manufacturing of Food products (down 8.6 Mt), Wood products (7.7 Mt),  Basic metals and fabricated metal products (7.2 Mt), Electronics (4.0 Mt) and Textiles (3.3 Mt). Manufacture of coke and petroleum, and manufacture of furniture and toys both saw increases of over 1 million tonnes of wastes. The picture at the country level is variable with different sets of manufacturing industries contributing to increases and reductions in aste generation.

Reductions in waste generation in manufacturing might be thought to be a result of the global economic recession that began towards the end of the reporting period. However, the largest reductions in waste generation occurred during 2004-2006, rather than during the second reporting period.

Moreover, examination of economic output data for these industries (output of the EU-KLEMS project) do not show strong coupling between economic output and generation of waste for those industries that achieved large reductions in waste generation.  The possible exceptions are the Textiles and Food Manufacturing Industries which had the lowest growth rates at basic prices at 1% and 6% respectively 2004-2006. However, these dampened growth rates (or shrinkage for textiles in real terms) can’t on their own explain the 19% and 9% reductions in generated waste from the textiles and food industry respectively over the same period.

The waste generation reductions from the manufacturing industry can be a result of resource productivity improvements or changes in the make-up of individual manufacturing industries during the reporting period i.e. a change from heavier to lighter manufacturing within each branch.

Waste from electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply decreased by 11%, corresponding well with the 9% decrease in coal used for electricity production over the same period  (see EEA Indicator ENER27).

The construction sector, households and the water supply, sewerage and waste treatment sector, meanwhile, saw increases in waste generation of 9% and 4% and 15% respectively. Of these, only waste generation by households have shown even relative decoupling from GDP. The continuing growth in waste generation by households is of particular concern suggesting a continuing growth in the consumption of material goods and perhaps increasing use of packaging by retailers. Although material recovery is generally increasing (see indicators SCP015 and SCP016) environmental pressures would be more effectively avoided through avoiding resource inputs into production processes and thus preventing waste generation downstream.

Increases in waste generation from the water supply and sewerage sector is mainly caused by increases in sewage sludge generated at water treatment plants. This should be seen as a positive trend indicating improvements in waste water treatment in the EU due, in part, to the implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. 

It should be noted that the waste generation figures from all sectors when summed together present some elements of double counting. Much of the waste generated by the waste management sector is secondary waste resulting from waste treatment. For example bottom ash from incinerators, or residual waste from waste sorting and recycling plants. The mass of this waste has already been recorded once in the waste generated by other sectors so such secondary waste represents double counting. From the next reporting period (reporting on 2010) these secondary wastes will become distinguishable from other wastes. They will remain shown in the indicator but will be clearly distinguished from other wastes so that trends in waste generation excluding secondary wastes can also be followed.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Almut Reichel


EEA Management Plan

2012 2.5.2 (note: EEA internal system)


Filed under: ,


European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100