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Latest available trends show that recycling rates for both municipal waste and packaging waste have increased substantially: recycling rates for municipal waste increased by 13 percentage points between 2004 and 2014, and recycling rates for packaging waste by 10 percentage points between 2005 and 2013. In 2014, 43 % of the municipal waste generated in the EU-27 and Norway was recycled, while in 2013, 65 % of packaging waste generated was recycled. These improvements are, among others, driven by EU targets for the recycling of these two waste streams introduced in 1994 and 2008, respectively. Higher overall recycling rates for packaging waste compared to municipal waste probably result from the earlier introduction of packaging waste targets, producer responsibility schemes and the relative ease of recycling packaging waste from commercial sources.
For municipal waste, large differences in recycling rates between European countries prevail; in 2014, the rates ranged from 64 % in Germany to 1 % in Serbia. In six countries, recycling rates were equal or higher than 50 %, while five countries recycled less than 20 %. In 2014, 24 countries recycled 55 % or more packaging waste and overall recycling rates ranged from 81 % in Belgium to 41 % in Malta. These differences indicate a large potential for improvement.
Consumption of meat per person increased by 2 %, milk (excluding butter) by 6 %, and fish and seafood by 13 % between 1995 and 2011. The increase took place before 2008, while the consumption of these food categories has stabilised or slightly decreased since then. This general trend, however, masks a change in the types of meat and fish consumed. Within the meat category, consumption of beef has fallen by 13 %, while consumption of poultry products has increased by 23 %. Within the fish and seafood category, the main change is a growth in the consumption of freshwater fish by 95 % over the same period.
Both bovine meat and cheese lead, on average, to significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions than pig or poultry meat per kilogram. With the decrease in consumption of bovine meat and the simultaneous increase in consumption of cheese and poultry, no significant environmental benefits related to these changes are expected.
Between 1996 and 2012, trends in household spending patterns were mixed. The trend, however, is towards an increasing share of consumption categories with reduced environmental pressures per Euro spent. In addition, almost all consumption categories have also seen reductions in environmental pressure intensities. Together, these two developments are likely to have caused a relative decoupling of environmental pressures from growth in household consumption expenditure.
European economic production and consumption have become less waste intensive, even after the economic downturn since 2008 is considered in the analysis.
From the production side, waste generation from manufacturing in the EU-28 and Norway declined by 25% in absolute terms between 2004 and 2012, despite an increase of 7% in sectoral economic output. Waste generation by the service sector declined by 23% in the same period, despite an increase of 13% in sectoral economic output.
Turning to consumption, total municipal waste generation in EEA countries declined by 2% between 2004 and 2012, despite a 7% increase in real household expenditure.
One of the objectives in EU waste policy is to reduce waste generation in absolute terms, within the overall goal to decouple economic growth from resource use and environmental impacts. Waste prevention efforts across Europe seems to contribute to the waste objectives; with considerable differences between the countries. Wider analysis across different economic sectors within and beyond EU borders will be needed in order to provide more comprehensive conclusions.
Absolute decoupling of nutrient emissions from domestic sector and the population growth over the period of almost two decades (1990-2009) is observed in thirteen countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia and Turkey). The actual extent of decoupling, and the differences in trends among countries, may be partially explained by different levels of numbers of inhabitants connected to tertiary wastewater treatment technologies
When making the EU wide comparison of the extend of decoupling of nutrient emissions from population growth, the actual rate of population connected to different types of treatment (elaborated in the CSI 024) should be taken into consideration, and completeness of the data available on population connected to collecting systems without treatment. The status of the implementation of the UWWTD which protects the water environment from the adverse effects of discharges of urban waste water, the level of investment in the water and wastewater management ,as well as the status of the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and Groundwater Directive may have an impact. Furthermore household patterns as well as the household income level affecting the production and composition of waste water should be considered as well.
It is assumed that the use of actual data on loads discharged from wastewater treatment plants combined with the load values calculated for population not connected to the waste water treatment would add value to the decoupling indicator, as it would better reflect the real situation..
Data indicates that while reuse and recycling of the collected waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) seems to be on track in the majority of the EU and EFTA member countries, the collection of the WEEE has shown varying but generally improving results. It appears that the amounts of WEEE that are collected, are largely reused (either as a whole appliance or components) or recycled although there is still room for improvement in some countries. However, more attention should be given to the improvement of collection systems. The level of collection is still very low in many countries, especially when compared to the amount put on the market (Figure 1).
The number of organisations registered under the EMAS standard rose by 50% during the period 2003-2010, while organisations from EU countries certified according to the international ISO 14001 standard more than quadrupled in the period 2001-2009. This indicates that private companies and public institutions in the EU are increasingly engaging in environmental management.
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/natural/indicators or scan the QR code.
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