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Indicator Assessment

Diversion of waste from landfill in Europe

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-488-en
  Also known as: WST 006
Published 21 Jun 2021 Last modified 23 Jun 2021
6 min read

A key goal of EU waste policy is to cut the amount of waste sent to landfill. Overall, the amount of landfill waste has decreased (in 2018 it was 7.6% less than in 2010), even though the total amount of waste generated has continued to increase. The landfill rate — waste sent to landfill as a proportion of waste generated — decreased from 23% to 20% in the same period. For some waste streams, such as (mixed) household and similar waste, relatively good progress has been made towards diverting waste from landfill. However, the amount of sorting residues sent to landfill has doubled since 2010.

Amounts and share of waste deposited in landfills, by type of waste category, EU-27

Note: The figure combines two chart types. The stacked area chart represents the amounts and share of waste deposited in landfills, broken down into the most relevant waste categories (household and similar waste, sorting residues, combustion waste and other waste). The line chart, with scale on the secondary vertical axis, represents landfill rate. Data extracted from Eurostat’s [env_wastrt]: Treatment of waste by waste category, hazardousness and waste management operations. The data shown in this figure do not include major mineral wastes. EU-27: 27 Member States of the EU.

Data source:

The EU’s approach to waste management is based on the waste hierarchy, which prioritises the prevention of waste followed by preparation for reuse, recycling, other recovery and then disposal, including to landfill. This final option is the least desirable and should be used only if absolutely necessary. Landfilling can pose risks to the environment and, despite measures such as bottom sealing, can reduce the quality of groundwater and surface water. A long-term goal of the EU is to transition to a circular economy, one that avoids generating waste and uses unavoidable waste as a resource wherever possible (EC, 2011; EU, 2018b; EC, 2020).

Overall, the generation of waste has increased in the EU in recent years, posing challenges for waste management and potentially undermining the EU’s objective of reducing its reliance on landfill. However, between 2010 and 2018, the total quantity of waste sent to landfill decreased by 7.6%, from 173 million tonnes to 160 million tonnes. This is equivalent to a decrease of some 30 kg of waste per year per EU citizen.

The overall landfill rate — waste sent to landfill as a proportion of waste generated — decreased from 23% to 20% between 2010 and 2018. However, the rates vary depending on the waste category. The proportion of household and similar waste (mixed municipal waste, waste from markets, bulky waste and waste produced by small businesses, office buildings and institutions) disposed of in landfill decreased by 51% (36.5 million tonnes) during this period. Moreover, the landfill rate for waste categorised as ‘other’ (chemical and medical wastes, recyclable wastes, equipment waste, animal and vegetal wastes, mixed and undifferentiated materials, and common sludges) decreased by 14% (4.6 million tonnes). However, for combustion waste (e.g. waste from flue gas purification and slags and ashes from waste incineration) the rate increased by 16% (8.5 million tonnes) and for sorting residues (mainly secondary wastes from waste treatment facilities) by 111% (19.5 million tonnes). These increases for combustion waste and sorting residues were due to the expansion of combustion capacity in the EU, tighter conditions for the material utilisation of combustion residues and the development of the waste sorting sector to enable a shift from landfill to the material recovery of waste.

Municipal waste landfill rates in Europe by country

Note: This cluster column chart shows the development in the landfill rate of municipal waste in European countries in 2010 and 2019. Data are presented in descending order according to 2019 data values. The 10% line represents the EU landfill target for 2035. Data are extracted from the Eurostat dataset [env_wasmun]: Municipal waste by waste management operations. The data cover the 32 EEA member countries and Western Balkan cooperating countries. Data for 2018 rather than 2019 are shown for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Ireland, Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244/99), Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia; data for 2011 rather than 2010 are shown for Denmark and North Macedonia. No 2010 data are available for Albania or Kosovo and no 2019 data are available for Iceland. Landfill rates are calculated by dividing the amount of waste sent to landfill by the amount of waste generated. The 2035 landfill target, as set in the EU Landfill Directive (EU, 1999, 2018a), is legally binding for EU Member States only.

Data source:

Landfill rates for municipal waste, a key waste stream and target of waste policies, vary greatly between European countries. Between 2010 and 2019, nearly all countries reduced their reliance on landfill, with the most significant reductions being achieved by Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia. However, some countries made very limited progress. Policies proven successful in reducing landfilling include landfill bans and taxes, and incentives for recycling.

In line with the EU Landfill Directive (EU, 1999, 2018a), Member States must reduce the amount of municipal waste sent to landfill to 10% or less of the total amount of municipal waste generated by 2035. In 2019, 10 Member States had achieved this (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden), with several of these countries incinerating a considerable amount of municipal waste. However, it is important to note that the data currently available were not collected in accordance with the reporting rules related to this target and, therefore, the data shown in this indicator cannot be used to assess compliance with the target.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

The two figures in this indicator provide information about the landfilling of waste. Figure 1 shows the amounts and percentage values of waste, excluding major mineral waste, deposited in landfill (the waste landfill rate) together with quantities sent to landfill for selected waste types. Figure 2 shows waste landfill rates, as percentages, by country. Data presented in the form of a bar chart are displayed for the reference year (2010, or 2011 in some cases) and the last year for which data are available (2019, or 2018 in some cases).

Units

The unit used to indicate landfilling rates in all figures is percentage (%). In addition, in Fig. 1 the amount of waste landfilled is expressed in millions of tonnes.

 

 


 

Policy context and targets

Context description

One of the characteristics of the linear economy system, which has predominated in recent decades, is a high level of resource consumption followed by a high level of waste generation (‘take-make-dispose’ model). This economic model is based on increasing profits generated by the consumption of primary resources and increasing demand for short-cycle products. In 2015, 2018 and 2020, the European Commission adopted circular economy packages to make the transition to a stronger, circular economic model, where resources are used in a more sustainable way. The waste hierarchy serves to set priorities for national waste policies and gives the highest priority to waste prevention, followed by preparing for reuse, recycling, other methods of recovery and disposal. These priorities are highlighted by recent waste and resource efficiency policies and strategies at EU and national levels.

Targets

No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

 

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Raw data for waste generation and treatment were retrieved from Eurostat. Eurostat aggregate data for the 27 EU Member States were used. Data on waste generation contain all NACE (statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community) activities and households. Frequency of data publishing is every 2 years (for waste generation). Information on data set uncertainties can be found directly in the metadata and explanatory notes provided by Eurostat. Only official Eurostat data sets have been used.

In Figure 2, the landfill rate is shown as the percentage of municipal waste generated that is deposited in landfill. Data are presented in descending order according to 2019 data values. Data for 2018 rather than 2019 are shown for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Ireland, Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244/99), Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia; data for 2011 rather than 2010 are shown for Denmark and North Macedonia. The horizontal line represents the target for the year 2035 according to the Landfill Directive (Directive 1999/31/EC, as amended by Directive (EU) 2018/850) (EU, 1999, 2018a).

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

 

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been identified in the methodology used to process the indicator.

 

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Response
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)
Indicator codes
  • WST 006
Frequency of updates
Updates are scheduled every 2 years
EEA Contact Info info@eea.europa.eu

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