Municipal waste generation (CSI 016/WST 001) - Assessment published Jan 2008
The generation of municipal waste per capita in western European countries has stabilised since 2000, albeit at a high level. Meanwhile the EU-12 has seen a steady decrease in per capita generation over the same period albeit with a slight increase between 2005 and 2006.
Waste prevention: are we reducing the generation of municipal waste?
Municipal waste generation per capita in Western Europe (EU-15), New Member States (EU-12), EU countries (EU-27) and total in Europe (EU-27 + Turkey, Croatia, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland)
Waste statistics (Eurostat) : (Structural indicator) Municipal waste generated kg per capita, 1000 tonnes
One of the targets set in the 5th Environment Action Programme (EAP) was to reduce the generation of municipal waste per capita per year to the average 1985 EU level of 300 kg by the year 2000 and then stabilise it at that level. The indicator (Figure 1) shows that the target was far from ever being reached. The average amount of municipal waste generated per capita per year in many western European countries still exceeds 550kg.
The target was not repeated in the 6th EAP. The new Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) rather includes a general objective to break the link between economic growth and the environmental impacts associated with the generation of waste. Since generation of municipal waste per capita has been stable in the EU-27 since 2000, while GDP increased by 16% over the same period (2000-2007), the generation of waste at least has been decoupled from economic growth. As a result, it is likely, though it does not necessarily follow, that the environmental impacts associated with municipal waste generation have also been decoupled from GDP.
Municipal waste generation rates in new Member States are on average lower than in western European countries and average generation appears to have remained relatively stable since the mid-nineties (although trends in individual countries are quite variable). This apparent stability in average generation has occurred during a period with strong economic growth as well as growth of consumption expenditure. The causes of absolute decoupling in municipal waste generation per capita in EU-12 are not clear. Several countries of the region have reported that apparent decoupling in their MSW generation may partially be caused by changes in measurement methods. Weighing of waste deliveries at landfills has been gradually introduced in some EU-12 countries over the past decade. Previously the amounts were estimated according to volume. Since amounts of lightweight waste (e.g. packaging) are growing and amounts of heavy fractions (e.g. ash and slag) are decreasing, individual landfills may have overestimated weight of municipal waste in the years immediately prior to introduction of weighing, if based on even older waste composition data. This would lead to a reduction in recorded weight following the introduction of direct weighing of waste. Since weighing has been introduced gradually these numerous sharp changes would be smoothed out and may appear as a gradual decrease in waste generation in the respective country.
Other trends, such as those in consumption patterns and waste collection methods (e.g. limited collection of bulky waste), may also have played a role. Reporting systems may also need further development, especially regarding the definition of municipal/non-municipal waste in some streams e.g. waste from small enterprises and services, bulky waste and packaging waste.
Indicator specification and metadata
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.
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.
CSI 016 Municipal waste generation West Balkan region
provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)
Population statistics (Eurostat)
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Municipal waste generation and treatment, by type of treatment method
provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Waste and material resources (Primary topic)
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
- CSI 016
- WST 001
Contacts and ownership
EEA Contact InfoJasmina Bogdanovic
EEA Management Plan2010 (note: EEA internal system)
Frequency of updates
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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