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Landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste

Indicator Fact Sheet (Deprecated)

Assessment made on  01 Jan 2001

Generic metadata


Waste and material resources Waste and material resources (Primary theme)

DPSIR: Pressure


Indicator codes
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  Progress towards Directive target on landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste

Key messages

  • Too much biodegradeable waste is still being landfilled. In countries that make most use of landfill to dispose of their waste, no improvement has happened.


Key assessment

As biodegradable waste decomposes in landfills, it produces greenhouse gases and leaves behind potentially toxic liquids which can escape the landfill and pollute the surrounding environment. Adopting alternatives, such as composting and reusing the waste or burning it to generate energy, would therefore reduce both pollution and the amount of land devoted to waste disposal.

The best data are from 1995, when the EU and Norway produced around 107 million tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW), two thirds of which were landfilled.

As the Figure shows, many of the countries, which landfilled a significant proportion of their BMW in 1995, including the United Kingdom, Ireland and Finland, now landfill even more. On the other hand, a number of countries actually reduced their proportion of landfilled BMW, including the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, and the Flemish region of Belgium.

The Directive on the Landfill of Waste sets targets for 2006, 2009, and 2016. Reaching them will require both reducing the fraction of BMW which is landfilled and reducing the total amount of BMW produced in the first place. This, in turn, will mean improving the collection of BMW, allowing it to be separated according to how contaminated it is, and creating new markets and outlets for BMW materials diverted away from landfills.

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