Municipal waste generation
Justification for indicator selection
Waste represents an enormous loss of resources in the form of both materials and energy. The amount of waste produced can be seen as an indicator of how efficient we are as a society, particularly in relation to our use of natural resources and waste treatment operations.
Municipal waste is currently the best indicator available for describing the general development of waste generation and treatment in European countries. This is because all countries collect data on municipal waste; data coverage for other wastes, for example total waste or household waste, is more limited.
Municipal waste constitutes only around 10 % of total waste generated, but because of its complex character and its distribution among many waste generators, environmentally sound management of this waste is complicated. Municipal waste contains many materials for which recycling is environmentally beneficial.
Despite its limited share of total waste generation, the political focus on municipal waste is very high.
- No rationale references available
The indicator presents municipal waste generation, expressed in kg per person. Municipal waste refers to waste collected by or on behalf of municipalities; the main part originates from households, but waste from commerce and trade, office buildings, institutions and small businesses is also included.
kilogramme per person per year, percentage.
Policy context and targets
6th Community Environment Action Programme
- Better resource efficiency and resource and waste management to bring about more sustainable production and consumption patterns, thereby decoupling the use of resources and the generation of waste from the rate of economic growth and aiming to ensure that the consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources does not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment.
- Achieving a significant overall reduction in the volumes of waste generated through waste prevention initiatives, better resource efficiency and a shift towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns
- A significant reduction in the quantity of waste going to disposal and the volumes of hazardous waste produced while avoiding an increase of emissions to air, water and soil;
- Encouraging reuse, and for wastes that are still generated: Preference should be given to recovery and especially to recycling.
Commission Communication COM(2005) 666 "Taking sustainable use of resources forward: A Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste"
This strategy sets out guidelines for European Union (EU) action and describes the ways in which waste management can be improved and waste can be prevented.
- Reducing the negative impact on the environment that is caused by waste throughout its life-span, from production to disposal, via recycling. This approach means that every item of waste is seen not only as a source of pollution to be reduced, but also as a potential resource to be exploited.
- The objectives preceding the adoption of this strategy still apply, namely limiting waste, and promoting the re-use, recycling and recovery of waste. These objectives are integrated into the approach based on environmental impact and on the life-cycle of resources.
Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)
This Directive establishes a legal framework for the treatment of waste within the Community. It aims at protecting the environment and human health through the prevention of the harmful effects of waste generation and waste management.
- Prime importance is to specify basic notions such as recovery and disposal, so as to better organise waste management activities, since the generation of waste is increasing within the European Union.
- Reinforcing measures to be taken with regard to prevention as well as the reduction of the impacts of waste generation and waste management on the environment. Finally, the recovery of waste should be encouraged so as to preserve natural resources.
Directive on the landfill of waste (1999/31/EC)
By 2006, Member States are restricted to landfilling a maximum of 75% of the total amount by weight of BMW produced in 1995. This target increases to 50 % in 2009 and 35% in 2016.
- Countries that landfilled more than 80 % of BMW produced in 1995 may postpone the attainment of these targets for a maximum of four years.
The 5th EU EAP had a target of 300 kg household waste per capita, but this target has been replaced by an overall objective to substantially reduce waste generation and disposal of waste in the 6th EU EAP.
The management of MSW is, to some extent, driven by landfill diversion targets set out in the Landfill Directive (See Landfill section). However, the recent revision to the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) includes the following target for household, and similar, waste:
- 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.
Related policy documents
Methodology for indicator calculation
The base data set for the calculation of the indicators is the amount of municipal waste collected by or on behalf of municipal authorities, and the amounts recycled, landfilled and incinerated.
Municipal waste is a part of overall waste generated. The term 'municipal' is used in different ways in the EU-27 because of the different management practices applied in different countries.
The bulk of this waste stream is from households though 'similar' wastes from sources such as commerce, offices and public institutions are also included.
According to the OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire:
- Municipal waste includes paper, paperboard and paper products, plastics, glass, metals, food and garden waste, and textiles.
- Recycling is defined as any reprocessing of material in a production process that diverts it from the waste stream, except reuse as fuel.
- Landfill is defined as deposit of waste into or onto land,
- Incineration means thermal treatment of waste in an incineration plant.
For the calculation of specific waste generation in kg per capita, the national amounts of municipal waste collected are divided by the national population. Figures for WE and CEE countries are calculated by summing up the national figures, divided by the WE and CEE countries' population.
For the calculation of waste treatment distribution by method, the quantity treated by each method is divided by the total amount of municipal waste collected and expressing it as percentage.
Methodology for gap filling
If no data are available for a certain country and year, estimations are made by the Topic Centre to fill the gap.
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
- CSI 016 Municipal waste generation West Balkan region
- Population statistics (Eurostat)
- Municipal waste generation and treatment, by type of treatment method
Data sources in latest figures
Data is taken from officially reported statistics only.
Data sets uncertainty
Because of different definitions of the concept, Municipal waste and the fact that some countries have reported data on municipal waste and others on household waste data are in general not comparable between member countries. Thus, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden do not include data on bulky waste as part of municipal waste, and very often not data on separately collected food waste and garden waste either. Southern European countries in general include very few waste types under municipal waste, indicating that data for traditional collection (bagged waste) apparently is the only big contributor to the total amount of municipal waste in these countries. The term, "waste from household and commercial activities" is an attempt to identify common and comparable parts of municipal waste. This concept and further details on comparability was presented in EEA topic report No 3/2000.
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Work descriptionRecent changes (after the latest MB review): No changes Planned changes: No planned changes q Short-Term Plans (year): q Medium-Term Plans (by 2008): Budgetary, technical, resource or scientific needs : Text from OECD: Although the waste prevention is the most difficult to measure and implement it is clearly considered most important goal in the waste sector to pave the way towards sustainable development. Based on the data it is difficult to image that we could achieve a decreasing trend in total waste generation or absolute decoupling of waste generation from economic growth without a structural change of economy towards less material intensive branches of industry. The development should go towards the developing waste prevention indicators.
As a matter of fact the waste statistics regulation will not provide data on municipal waste ? only household waste. Consequently, Eurostat will probably still collect data on municipal waste from the countries on a voluntary basis.
Deadline2006/01/01 00:00:00 GMT+1
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoJasmina Bogdanovic
Frequency of updates
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
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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