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Municipal waste generation

Indicator Assessmentexpired Created 01 Sep 2010 Published 29 Nov 2010 Last modified 03 Sep 2015, 07:17 PM
Note: new version is available!
This content has been archived on 16 Feb 2015, reason: No more updates will be done
Indicator codes: CSI 016 , WST 001

This indicator is discontinued because data availability does not fully meet the requirements for EEA indicators.

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Key messages

An important objective of EU policy is to decouple waste generation from economic growth. The evidence shows that for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation, which is around 10 % of the total waste generated in the EU, levels have stabilised after 2000 at a high level of 520 kg/capita, despite the economic growth. However, the objective to reduce generation of waste has not been achieved yet for Municipal Solid Waste.

 

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)

Note: Municipal waste generation per capita

Data source:
  • Municipal waste provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Downloads and more info

Municipal waste generation per capita in Europe

Note: Municipal waste generation per capita in Western Europe (EU-15 + Norway, Iceland and Switzerland), New Member States (EU-12), EU countries (EU-27), Turkey, Western Balkan countries and total in Europe (total)

Data source:
  • Municipal waste provided by Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat)
Downloads and more info

EU policy instruments and strategies, such as the revised Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) and the 6th Environmental Action Programme (EAP) prioritise waste prevention, i.e. decoupling waste generation from economic growth. For Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), which is around 10 % of the total waste generated in the EU, a relative decoupling from economic growth has already been achieved after 2000. In order to estimate the potential decoupling from impacts to the environment, a more detailed assessment of the treatment is required. In all cases, the effects of the recent economic downturn are not yet visible in the data. Contrary to the EU, per person municipal waste generation in the West Balkan region has been steadily increasing since 2003, reaching 345 kg/cap in 2008. Waste generation has closely followed the region’s upward trend in GDP, attributed to the rapid economic expansion provoked by the adoption of free market economies in the countries.

Municipal waste generation rates in EU-12, Turkey and the West Balkan countries are on average lower than in the EU-15 and EFTA countries. In the EU-12, average generation appears to have remained relatively stable since the mid-1990ies (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 stabilisation of waste generation in the EU might have a number of explanations. The causes of absolute decoupling in municipal waste generation per capita in EU-12 and Turkey 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. Another reason is the initiatives taken by some countries (mostly in EU-15) in the field of waste prevention. The actions are still very limited, but may have some effects on the stabilisation of generation of MSW.

Other trends, such as those in consumption patterns and waste collection methods (e.g. limited collection of bulky waste), might also have played a role. Reporting systems 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.

Furthermore, there are notable differences among countries both in the development of waste generation and its size. The annual generation per capita varies from 306 kg in Czech Republic to 453 kg in Greece and up to 802 kg in Denmark. Some countries have achieved a stabilisation of waste generation or even a reduction while others follow a constant increase. Therefore, there is a lot of room for improvement if the measures applied successfully in some countries were transferred across all countries.

 

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

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.

Units

kilogramme per person per year, percentage.


Policy context and targets

Context description

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.

Targets

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

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.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

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.

Rationale uncertainty

 

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

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

Household consumption Household consumption

Green economy Green economy

Tags:
soer2010 | waste | municipal waste generation
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 016
  • WST 001
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1995-2008
Geographic coverage:
Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYR), Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Jasmina Bogdanovic

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2010 2.5.2 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100