Why should we care about this issue
High generation rates of waste in Luxembourg, but also high recovery rates through networks and schemes for waste management, reduction and recovery within the country.
Actions, plans and laws based on the principles of prevention, reduction and recovery.
With the strong population growth and the even stronger cross-border growth in commuter numbers – see country introduction – waste generation and, therefore, waste management is a crucial environmental issue in Luxembourg. Nowadays, Luxembourg has one of the highest rates of municipal waste generation per capita within the EU.
Recycling of waste, and more precisely the use of organic waste as an energy source through co-fermentation, is a key element in Luxembourg’s energy policy aiming at coping with the EU objective assigned to Luxembourg in the ‘Climate & Energy Package’ adopted by the European Union in 2008, i.e. to reach 11 % share of renewable energy in total energy consumption by 2020. Indeed, as stressed in the country profile of Luxembourg, renewable energy potentials are limited in Luxembourg and would only replace imported energy rather than replacing any electricity production from inefficient existing fossil fuel plants.
The state and impacts
Municipal waste: high generation but also high recovery rate
Under the impact of separate collection and recovery measures, there has been a continuous relative decoupling between municipal waste, residual waste for disposal and GDP these last 10 to 15 years. The volume of waste that must be dealt with has been growing less quickly than GDP, although at a rate very close to growth in private consumption, while both population and cross-border employment have been rising [Figure 1]. Waste generation per capita (at 700 kg) is among the highest in western Europe. This, however, includes waste generated by cross-border commuters and by (small) services businesses whose numbers have increased considerably since 1990.
Collection and recovery rates of municipal waste are among the best in Europe. With separate collection, some 46 % of total municipal waste can now be recycled. Recovery volumes are rising, reflecting the growing network of recycling centres and active public awareness about trash sorting. Municipal waste collection for recycling amounts to about 275 kg per capita every year, making Luxembourg's performance among the best in western Europe. Nevertheless, from a detailed analysis of the waste composition carried out in 2004-2005, it appears that the residual fraction going to incineration or treatment still contains a fair share of litter that could be recovered [Figure 2, Figure 3, Figure 4].
For some specific waste streams, available data show that about 16 kg per inhabitant per year of waste from electric and electronic equipments ([Figure 5]. Up to 50 %of old batteries and old accumulators are collected. More than 90 % of packaging waste is recycled, recovered or reused. Bio-organic waste from kitchens is also recovered but, with a collection-rate of 45 %, it remains insufficient.) is collected
Per inhabitant, there has been a decrease in municipal waste being incinerated or stored in landfill sites during the last decade [Figure 2]. Around 70 % of this waste is incinerated with energy recovery, while the remainder goes to landfills. The objective of reducing landfill-destined biodegradable waste to 35 % of the 1995 level by 2016 has already been achieved.
Figure 1 - Municipal waste generation and contextual variables: 1995-2009
a) population, GDP & PFC: STATEC, Statistical Yearbook, Table B.1100 and Table E.2101;
b) municipal waste data prepared by Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment & Environment Agency.
Note: municipal waste data does not include buildings and excavations waste. 2009 data are first estimates.
Figure 2 - Municipal waste treatment in kg per inhabitant: 1995-2009
Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Department of the Environment & Environment Agency.
a) municipal waste data does not include buildings and excavations waste. 2009 data are first estimates;
b) inhabitants denominator = population connected to either landfill or incineration and total population for waste generated & recovered;
c) energy produced when waste are eliminated in the sole incinerator of the country is entirely recovered;
d) waste recovered consists of waste collected for recovery or recycling abroad and in Luxembourg - small fraction - and organic & garden waste collected for fermentation or composting.
Figure 3 - Separate municipal waste collection in recycling centres: 1995-2008
Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Environment Agency. Published in STATEC, Statistical Yearbook, Table A.3306.
a) WEEE = Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Data excludes fridges;
b) bulky & inert waste also includes old tyres & rubber;
c) hazardous waste are collected through the 'SuperDrecksKëscht fir Biirger' collection scheme.
Figure 4 - Fractions in municipal waste going to landfills or being incinerated: analyse for 2009-2010
Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Environment Agency.
Figure 5 - Separate collection of selected fractions: 1995-2008
Source: Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure - Environment Agency. Quantities published in STATEC, Statistical Yearbook, Table A.3304.
Note: PMC stands for ‘plastiques, métaux, cartons’. Since 1998 a separate collection - in a blue bag - is organised to collect plastic bottles, metallic packaging (such as tinned food) and TetraPak: see Valorlux.
Industrial, commercial and service waste: significant volumes but declining
Industrial, commercial and service waste was estimated at 389 000 tonnes in 2007, of which 296 000 tonnes and 93 000 tonnes of waste, respectively, are generally exported to Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands for treatment. Indeed, Luxembourg does not have the whole range of recycling or recovery installations on its small territory. The same holds for separately collected municipal and specific waste streams collected through recycling centres or schemes, which are, therefore, mostly sent abroad for valorisation or other treatments.
Final industrial waste declined during the period under review, reflecting the combined impact of the closure of a mill and of the implementation of ‘Waste Prevention and Management Plans’ (Plan de Prévention et de Gestion des Déchets’, PPGDs) by businesses which have diverted many types of waste from disposal to recovery. In fact, companies are to appoint a ’waste management officer’ and prepare a PPGD that requires firms to evaluate their prevention and recycling potential and to institute ecological management of their waste. More than 3 000 firms have established such a plan since 1995.
Other waste streams are also subject to valorisation
There are about 13 000 tonnes of sewage sludge generated each year, most of which is used in agriculture (50 to 55 %) as fertiliser (sludge spreading) or composted (around 40 %). There are also 10.5 million tonnes of inert waste, consisting primarily of construction materials (76 % excavated earth), demolition waste and road maintenance waste that have to go to dedicated disposal sites where they are recovered, notably via grinding operations, or landfilled when recovery is not possible. The volume of inert waste generated, which is closely linked to construction activity, has risen in recent years.
Treatment and disposal of final waste
Municipal waste treatment, as well as separate collection and recycling centres, is under the responsibility of 116 municipalities, regrouped in the three main inter-communal syndicates operating two controlled landfills and one incineration plant, respectively, with energy recovery.
Regarding industrial, commercial and service waste, thanks to the PPGDs, remaining quantities to be eliminated are such that domestic facilities are less justified than in the past. Non-household waste for disposal is exported to specialised facilities in neighbouring countries, primarily in Germany. Due to the size of the country and its economy, total quantities exported may vary sharply from one year to the next.
The key drivers and pressures
As indicated in the ‘Why care?’ section, the main driver and pressure for waste streams and composition is the economic development of the country that gradually shifted from a rural economy to an industrial one (with the steel industry) and, finally, to a service and financial centre. The latter development was accompanied by a remarkable population growth and by an ever increasing number of cross-border commuters – see country profile.
The 2020 outlook
The population of Luxembourg is likely to continue to rise. Estimates are that it could reach 560 000 to 605 000 inhabitants by 2024. The number of cross-border commuters is also expected to grow again after the stabilisation observed during the financial and economic crisis that hit the country at the end of the first decade of this century. Consequently, waste generation might increase and should be controlled as much as possible, notably through an overall waste management plan – see the ‘National Responses’ chapter – designing the axes of the future waste policy in Luxembourg.
Existing and planned responses
Luxembourg has few levers available for influencing the design or composition of products. It can, however, act on consumer habits and on household and business participation in selective sorting and in waste prevention and ecological management programmes. Its policy is to introduce separate collection and appropriate management systems, together with information targeted at households and consumers, as well as advisory services and training, and assistance to businesses.
For 20 years now, separate collection of municipal waste has been based on both mobile and fixed collection, a network of 24 recycling centres and a programme of regular public information. Separate collection applies to all recoverable items as well as to ‘problematic’ and hazardous waste via the ‘SuperDrecksKëscht® fir Biirger’ initiative (see one of our national and regional stories). The volumes collected by voluntary delivery to recycling centres have more than doubled since 1999 (905 000 deliveries in 2008).
To prevent the generation of consumer waste, the emphasis is on informing the public about the products that generate waste, components that are hazardous to the environment and health, and available substitutes. These efforts rely on joint public- and private-sector initiatives and on economic instruments.
Luxembourg has therefore for many years been pursuing an active policy of waste management based on prevention and recovery with a view to minimising environmental impact and supplying high-quality secondary raw materials. It gives priority to recovering materials for reintroduction into the economic circuit.
The legislative and regulatory framework is based on the amended Waste Prevention and Management Act of 2000, the 2010 Waste Management Plan(‘Plan Général de Gestion des Déchets’, PGGD), which calls for full-cost pricing at every stage of waste management and sets the following goals: (i) preventing and reducing waste production and pollution from waste; (ii) recovery through reuse, recycling or any other environmentally appropriate method; and (iii) disposal of final waste in environmentally and economically appropriate ways.
With regard to industrial, commercial and service waste, the main instruments for achieving waste prevention targets and reintroducing materials into the economic circuit are the PPGDs and the advice provided to businesses by the ‘SuperDrecksKëscht® fir Betriber’ programme, an initiative presented in one of our national and regional stories.
Other laws and Grand Ducal regulations concerning specific waste flows supplement the PGGD Act and transpose European legislation into national law (movements of hazardous waste, packaging waste, waste oils, PCBs, waste incineration, sewage sludge, WEEE, batteries, etc.). European legislation plays an increasing role in determining policies and establishing objectives. Luxembourg must also comply with other international commitments relating to cross-border waste movements and to the ecological management of waste and resource productivity.
Other interesting links
Various statistics on waste generation and treatment: click here (in French and German).
Laws and legal texts relating to waste management: click here (in French).
The SuperDrecksKëscht® (SDK) programme: click here (in French, German, Luxembourgish and English).
2009 Activity Report of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Infrastructure – p. 207-259: click here (in French).