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Municipal waste generation (CSI 016/WST 001) - Assessment published Nov 2010

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Generic metadata


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

Household consumption Household consumption

Green economy Green economy

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
Temporal coverage:

Key policy question: Waste prevention: are we reducing the generation of municipal waste?

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.


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:
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:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

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.


Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Jasmina Bogdanovic


EEA Management Plan

2010 2.5.2 (note: EEA internal system)


Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 1 year in October-December (Q4)
Document Actions


European Environment Agency (EEA)
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1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100