Recycling rates for packaging waste fractions and municipal waste
This item is open for comments. See the comments section below
Justification for indicator selection
This indicator is part of a Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) indicator set which was developed on the basis of a framework for indicator based reporting on SCP. The policy question the indicator seeks to answer is one of 35 policy questions forming the core of the SCP Indicator Reporting Framework.
This question concerns the reuse and recycling of end-of-life products to reduce, as far as possible, the demand for virgin materials.
The indicator is of relevance to the question investigating the degree to which packaging and municipal waste generated by European consumption and production, are increasingly being recycled so that their material content can be returned to the economy for the production of new goods or new packaging materials.
However, it should be noted that packaging waste and municipal waste make up just 3-4% and 8-9% (respectively) of total waste generated in the EU-27. Furthermore, if increased recycling rates are accompanied by an increase in demand for materials for production, they may not have led to any absolute reduction in the use of virgin materials.
Supplementary indicators are therefore included to provide further answers to this policy question. Indicator SCP015 investigates trends in recycling quantities for key waste fractions in all waste streams in Europe, while Indicator SCP042 investigates the extent to which demand for materials for production of goods can be met by recycled materials.
- No rationale references available
This indicator shows recycling rates of packaging waste fractions and municipal waste, and is presented in two figures for the EU-15 and EU-27, respectively.
What constitutes packaging waste is defined by Annex I to the Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC). Packaging comprises all products used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from the producer to the user or the consumer. 'Non-returnable' items used for the same purposes also constitute packaging. Packaging materials include paper and cardboard, plastic, wood, metals and glass.
Municipal waste is waste collected by or on behalf of municipal authorities and disposed of through the waste management system. It mainly comprises household waste but similar wastes from sources such as services, offices and public institutions are included in Eurostat data. Wastes from agriculture and industry are not included. It should be noted that a large part of packaging wastes are reported as municipal waste.
The recycling rate is the share of generated waste which undergoes material recovery (i.e. not energy recovery). Figure 1 presents recycling rates for packaging waste fractions (1998-2010) and for municipal waste (1995-2010) for the EU-15. Wood packaging wastes are first included from 2003 due to lack of reporting by a number of countries during earlier years. Figure 2 presents the same variables for the EU-27, but for the years 2004-2010 for packaging waste recycling rates.
The underlying data has been reported to Eurostat by EU Member States.
This indicator is expressed as a percentage (of recycled material compared to the total waste produced in each category), representing the rate of recycling in both Figures 1 and 2.
Policy context and targets
The international policy framework for SCP was recently agreed at Rio+20 with the adoption of the ten year framework for action on sustainable consumption and production. The declaration ‘The future we want’ recognised the need to change unsustainable and promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production. More specifically the declaration states that ‘We recognize the importance of adopting a life-cycle approach and of further
development and implementation of policies for resource efficiency and environmentally sound waste management. We therefore commit to further reduce, reuse and recycle waste (3Rs) ..with a view to managing the majority of global waste in an environmentally sound manner and where possible as a resource.’
Reuse and recycling are also identified as an objective within the Sustainable Consumption and Production theme of the EU’s renewed Sustainable Development Strategy (2006), aiming at ‘avoiding the generation of waste and enhancing efficient use of natural resources by applying the concept of life-cycle thinking and promoting reuse and recycling’ under a broader objective to ‘avoid overexploitation of natural resources’.
One of the objectives of the 6th Environmental Action Programme (Article 8) is to ‘encourage re-use ….preference should be given to recovery and especially to recycling’.
The long term goal of the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste is for ‘a recycling society that seeks to avoid waste and uses waste as a resource’. Reuse and recycling are the second most preferred waste management options after waste prevention in the waste hierarchy given in Article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD). The 2008 WFD sets new targets for Member States for the reuse and recycling of paper, metals, plastic and glass from households and similar origins, and for construction and demolition waste (Article 11). Closed-loop recycling is not mentioned specifically in waste policy documents at the EU level. However, the end-of-waste criteria required under Article 6 of the WFD are developed in part to improve the quality of end-of-life materials to optimise their potential for utilisation in production of new products and thus support the shift towards a closed-loop economy.
The Roadmap for a Resource Efficient Europe (2011) contains a section on Turning Waste into a Resource. This puts focus on raising the priority to reuse and recycling and developing a combination of policies that help create a full recycling economy. These policies include product design integrating a life cycle approach, better cooperation among market actors along the value chain, better collection processes, and appropriate regulatory framework and incentives for waste recycling. The Roadmap contains the milestone that by 2020 ‘recycling and reuse of waste are economically attractive options for public and private actors due to widespread separate collection and the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials. More materials including materials having a significant impact on the environment and critical raw materials are recycled. Waste legislation is fully implemented. […] Energy recovery is limited to non-recyclable materials, landfilling is virtually eliminated and high quality recycling is ensured.’
According to the Waste Framework Directive (WFD), Art. 11, EU Member States have to meet the following targets related to recycling of waste:
- by 2015 separate collection shall be set up for at least the following: paper, metal, plastic and glass;
- by 2020, the preparing for re-use and the recycling of waste materials such as at least paper, metal, plastic and glass from households and possibly from other origins as far as these waste streams are similar to waste from households, shall be increased to a minimum of overall 50 % by weight;
The Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC) sets explicit targets in Article 6 on recovery and recycling of packaging waste. ‘In order to comply with the objectives of this Directive, Member States shall take the necessary measures to attain the following targets covering the whole of their territory;
(a) no later than five years from the date by which this Directive must be implemented in national law, between 50 % as a minimum and 65 % as a maximum by weight of the packaging waste will be recovered;
(b) within this general target, and with the same time limit, between 25 % as a minimum and 45 % as a maximum by weight of the totality of packaging materials contained in packaging waste will be recycled with a minimum of 15 % by weight for each packaging material;
(c) no later than 10 years from the date by which this Directive must be implemented in national law, a percentage of packaging waste will be recovered and recycled, which will have to be determined by the Council in accordance with paragraph 3 (b) with a view to substantially increasing the targets mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b).’
Related policy documents
Decision no 1600/2002/ec of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 july 2002 laying down the sixth community environment action programme
COM(2005) 666 final Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste
COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS Taking sustainable use of resources forward: A Thematic Strategy on the preventionend recycling of waste
Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste
European Parliament and Council Directive 94/62/EC of 20 December 1994 on packaging and packaging waste
Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe. COM(2011) 571
The Future We Want –Declaration of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio (2012)
The Future We Want is the declaration on sustainable development and a green economy adopted at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio on June 19, 2012. The Declaration includes broad sustainability objectives within themes of Poverty Eradication, Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, Energy, Sustainable Transport, Sustainable Cities, Health and Population and Promoting Full and Productive Employment. It calls for the negotiation and adoption of internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals by end 2014. It also calls for a UN resolution strengthening and consolidating UNEP both financially and institutionally so that it can better disseminate environmental information and provide capacity building for countries.
Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)
Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (Text with EEA relevance)
Methodology for indicator calculation
Figure 1: In order to calculate the recycling rates for the key packaging waste fractions in the EU15, the amount of packaging waste materials recycled each year is divided by waste generation for the same fraction for the same year and multiplied by 100. For the calculation of the recycling rates of municipal waste, a similar methodology was used. The amount of municipal waste recycled (excluding composting) is added to the amount of municipal waste composted in a given year and the sum is divided by the total generation of municipal waste for that year. The result is multiplied by 100 in order to obtain the percentage of municipal waste recycled (representing ‘rate’ of recycling).
Figure 2: Figure 2 applies the same methodology as Figure 1, using EU-27 data instead of EU-15.
Methodology for gap filling
No gap filling was necessary.
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
No uncertainty has been specified.
Data sets uncertainty
The link to the Eurostat methodology and uncertainty for the source datasets on generation and treatment of packaging waste can be found here: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/EN/env_waspac_esms.htm
The link to the Eurostat methodology and uncertainty for the source datasets on generation and treatment of municipal waste can be found here: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_SDDS/EN/env_wasmun_esms.htm
One uncertainty arises from the fact that 'municipal waste' is defied in different ways in the separate countries reflecting different waste management practices. A second cause of uncertainty is the methods used for measuring or estimating quantities of waste being treated. Accuracy has gradually improved over time due to the installation of weighbridges at treatment facilities.
Packaging waste and municipal waste make up just 3-4% and 8-9% (respectively) of total waste generated in the EU-27. Furthermore, if increased recycling rates are accompanied by an increase in demand for materials for production, they may not have led to any absolute reduction in the use of virgin materials.
Supplementary indicators are therefore included to provide further answers to this policy question. Indicator SCP015 investigates trends in recycling quantities for key waste fractions in all waste streams in Europe, while Indicator SCP042 investigates the extent to which demand for materials for production of goods can be met by materials recovered through recycling.
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoAlmut Reichel
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe's environment.
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