Indicator Specification

Industrial waste in Europe

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: INDP 004
Published 14 Jan 2019 Last modified 09 Feb 2021
15 min read
This page was archived on 09 Feb 2021 with reason: Other (Discontinued indicator)
This indicator provides data and analysis on trends in waste generation, and the relative generation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste from industrial activities in Europe throughout the last decade. In addition, the indicator assesses trends in the recovery of industrial waste. The data provided in this indicator will also act as a baseline to assess the effectiveness of future policy measures that will have an impact on industrial waste management. 
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

Industrial activities play a central role in modern society, producing the goods, services and materials that foster economic growth and contribute to our modern standards of living. However, it has long been recognised that industrial activities can lead to negative impacts on our environment and well-being. Regulatory regimes have been put in place within the European Union in order to control and minimise the impacts of industrial production and to develop a sustainable industrial production model, balancing economic growth and technological development with environmental and human health protection. These regulatory regimes have, in particular, resulted in well-documented reductions of harmful emissions from industry, but there is less evidence of the impacts this regulatory regime has had on industrial waste management and recovery. 

In recent years, the emphasis on creating sustainable economic growth has begun to focus on the efficient use of scarce resources and the promotion of 'a 'circular economy' where resource efficiency and the reuse of waste materials are prioritised, and where the 'leakage' of waste outside the cycle of production and consumption is prevented. This includes measures at the design, production, distribution, consumption, repair/reuse and recycling phases. 

The rationale behind this indicator is to develop a baseline indicator that can be used to quantify and benchmark future improvements in industrial waste management and waste recovery activities. The indicator uses data from two sources, namely data from Eurostat on waste generation and data from the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR). This indicator is expected to be further developed and refined in future years as policy measures in areas such as the circular economy mature and are implemented. 

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

This indicator provides data and analysis on trends in waste generation, and the relative generation of hazardous and non-hazardous waste from industrial activities in Europe throughout the last decade. In addition, the indicator assesses trends in the recovery of industrial waste. The data provided in this indicator will also act as a baseline to assess the effectiveness of future policy measures that will have an impact on industrial waste management. 


Millions of tonnes are the units used for data on waste generation and waste transfers. For data on gross value added, billions of euros are used. Percentages are also used to assist in presenting relative changes in various parameters such as waste recovery rates. 


Policy context and targets

Context description

The Waste Framework Directive (WFD, 2008/98/EC) sets the overall structure that defines waste management activities across EU Member States. The WFD defines key concepts in relation to waste management including the definition of what constitutes ‘waste’ and the properties that require a waste to be classified as ‘hazardous’. In addition, Regulation 1013/2006 on Shipment of Waste specifies the conditions under which waste can be moved between countries and is very relevant to industrial wastes, particularly hazardous wastes, which are often shipped throughout Europe for the purposes of disposal or recovery. 

The primary policy initiative, specifically in relation to the regulation of industrial activities (including waste related aspects) is the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED – 2010/75/EU), and its predecessor, the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive (IPPC – 2008/1/EC). In general, the primary focus of the regulatory regime introduced under the IPPC and the IED is more on the management of environmental releases and there has been less emphasis on minimisation and/or recovery, including preparing waste for reuse, within the permitting process. The IED does include specific reference to the WFD in relation to minimising waste generation and managing waste in accordance with European law.

While for releases to air or water, the regulatory process normally specifies emission limits, there are generally no site specific targets set against which waste minimisation or waste recovery rates can be benchmarked. In practical terms, this tends to divert regulatory efforts towards those actions that can be measured, for example the installation of abatement technologies to minimise sulphur dioxide emissions, or the achievement of specific limit values for discharges to water. The nature of the regulatory approach to emissions to air and water also tends to generate more data. This allows for better measurements and the demonstration of improvements, with the data reported on waste (e.g. through the E-PRTR) tending to be less focussed as it is generally not used to assess compliance against a specific target.

One of the key improvements introduced under the IED, compared with the previous IPPC process, is the concept of Best Available Techniques Conclusions (BATc). The BAT conclusion documents set out legally binding requirements for industrial activities, which must be integrated into installation permits within 4 years of the BATc documents being published. The implementation of BATc is likely to have some positive influence in terms of minimising resource use and waste generation, and promoting efficient management of materials and residue recovery, as the BATc documents address waste management techniques in a more focussed way than was the case under the IPPC. Each BATc document will typically have a number of specific waste and resource efficiency related conclusions, which must be implemented by IED installations. However, in general these waste related BAT conclusions tend to be qualitative, rather than setting specific quantitative targets. It thus remains to be seen exactly how effective the BATc process will be in terms of influencing waste generation and recovery levels.

Apart from the specific waste management or industry related policies, other broader policy measures in the waste and resource efficiency area will also have an impact on industrial waste generation and recovery in the coming years, specifically policy measures in relation to the Circular Economy (CE). The 2018 Circular Economy Package sets out a strategic framework of measures that will help stimulate Europe's transition towards a circular economy, boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs. As part of the circular economy package, the Commission will clarify rules on by-products and end-of-waste status, which will help support the development of industrial symbiosis — a process by which the waste of one company can become resources for another company. To promote resource efficient and innovative industrial processes, such as industrial symbiosis or re-manufacturing, the Commission supports innovative industrial initiatives under the financing programme Horizon 2020 and through Cohesion Policy funds.


As part of the consultation with EEA member countries, a number of responses were received with specific national information and tools that may also be of use in providing further contextual information. Links to some of these sources of information are provided below, while other consultation responses have been incorporated into the indicator descriptive text. The EEA would like to thank those countries that provided consultation responses.


There are no specific targets related to industrial waste management. 

Related policy documents



Methodology for indicator calculation

Eurostat based indicators/data

Eurostat data on waste generation were downloaded directly from the Eurostat database and were processed to extract the data necessary for Figures 1 and 2. The database is available at:

Data downloaded were based on ‘total waste’, i.e. primary and secondary waste generation figures, and for the total combined quantity of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Secondary waste is relevant mainly for the waste industry sector, where residues from waste processing would be considered as secondary waste (this could include sorting residues or sludges/liquid wastes from processing activities). Also, in the context of the waste industry, primary waste is defined as total waste excluding secondary waste (i.e. ‘total waste – secondary waste’). For the main NACE code related to the waste industry (i.e. NACE code E38 - Waste collection, treatment and disposal activities; materials recovery) secondary waste accounts for about 58 % (based on 2016 data) of total reported waste. Recyclable materials generated during the processing of wastes in the waste industry are categorised as ‘primary waste’ according to the methodology used by Eurostat. Also, the definition of the waste industry does not include other industrial activities, which manage their own waste (e.g. via on-site incineration or on-site landfilling). Because the waste industry is processing waste, which may originate from industrial activities, there is likely to be some double-counting of wastes within the reported dataset. However it was nonetheless considered useful to present data on the waste industry as part of the indicator. 

Eurostat waste generation data are reported by NACE code. In order to generate the data presented in Figure 1, the NACE codes were mapped to predefined EEA activity sectors. In some cases a number of NACE codes map to a single EEA activity sector. The EEA activity mapping methodology is published and available at: 

Eurostat data on gross value added by industry is also used in Figures 1 and 2. These data were accessed directly from the Eurostat database at:


E-PRTR based indicators/data

E-PRTR data on waste transfers are submitted to the EEA by reporting countries. The latest version of the E-PRTR dataset (V14) was used to generate the data in the indicator text and graphs (Figures 3, 4 and 5). The latest version of the E-PRTR datasets are publicly available at:

Figures 3 and 5 present E-PRTR data aggregated to a range of different industrial sectors. In order to generate these sector-based data, the E-PRTR activity codes were mapped to predefined EEA activity sectors. This EEA activity mapping methodology is published and available at: 

All graphs presented for E-PRTR data exclude data for the waste industry sector as this would result in double-counting of data (i.e. transfers reported by other E-PRTR industrial activities), and in the case of E-PRTR data the inclusion of these data was not considered to be of relevance in relation to the policy questions being addressed. 

Methodology for gap filling

No gap filling is required. 

Methodology references

No methodology references available.


Data specifications

EEA data references

External data references

Data sources in latest figures



Methodology uncertainty

Two key data sources were employed in preparing this indicator, namely the Eurostat dataset on waste generation and also the E-PRTR dataset. The methodology is based on a simple approach to presenting data on waste from Eurostat and from the E-PRTR, hence the potential uncertainties in the methodology itself are limited, however the data uncertainty, described separately, will influence the overall uncertainty of the approach taken in this indicator. 

The Eurostat data are updated every 2 years and, for the purposes of this indicator, data from 2010 to 2016 are used (see data uncertainty section for details). 

The E-PRTR dataset includes data on waste transfers from industrial facilities. Data are reported only for facilities that carry out specified activities. The E-PRTR data include only data on waste transfers, i.e. off-site movements of waste, therefore, if waste is managed on-site (e.g. on-site landfill or incineration) then it would not be reported via the E-PRTR. In addition, reporting thresholds are set for waste transfers and only transfers above 2 000 tonnes (for non-hazardous waste) or 2 tonnes (for hazardous waste) are reported via the E-PRTR. E-PRTR data are reported by the 33 member countries of the EEA, with the exception of Turkey, which does not currently report data. Non-EU countries reporting E-PRTR data are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. 

These differences in the Eurostat and E-PRTR datasets mean that they are not necessarily comparable, e.g.:

  • E-PRTR deals only with larger industrial facilities;
  • Waste that is managed on-site is not reported to E-PRTR;
  • Waste transfers below the reporting threshold are not reported to the E-PRTR.

The way in which the datasets are reported also means that the activity classifications used in these waste indicators are different for each data source. For example, Eurostat waste generation data as presented in these indicators, are broken down into extractive industry, manufacturing industry, energy supply and waste industry based on the groupings of NACE codes used in Eurostat reporting. E-PRTR data used in these indicators are also presented in terms of extractive industry and energy supply, but more detail on sub-activities of ‘manufacturing industry’ are also provided. Data for the same sub-activities cannot be generated with Eurostat waste generation data due to the aggregation of data over multiple NACE codes. Also, data for the waste industry are not provided for E-PRTR based indicators, as there is potential for double-counting of waste transfers between sites. While double-counting is also likely with Eurostat data, it was decided to include data for the waste industry sector as the trend for this sector is of interest. 

Data sets uncertainty

The indicators presented here, which are based on E-PRTR data, are subject to the data limitations of the E-PRTR process. The extent of information collected in relation to waste is limited to waste quantity, treatment type (disposal or recovery) and waste type (hazardous or non-hazardous). Additionally, for hazardous waste transfers outside the country of generation, details of the recoverer/disposer and the recovery/disposal site must also be provided. No further detail on wastes are collected within the E-PRTR database. 

The reporting thresholds for waste (2 tonnes for hazardous waste and 2 000 tonnes for non-hazardous waste transfers) also means that not all transferred waste is reported under the E-PRTR. In some situations, there may also be outliers present in the data. These can only be corrected by the reporting countries, as the EEA cannot adjust/amend national data. Quality control checks completed by the EEA will flag potential outliers, which are then notified to reporting countries. The reporting country can then investigate the data and determine if an update of the dataset is required.  

Also, E-PRTR data relate only to off-site transfers of waste, hence on-site waste disposal/recovery activities will not be accounted for in E-PRTR data (e.g. on-site landfill, incineration or recovery activities).

In addition, E-PRTR data on waste do not provide any context on the environmental impact of waste transfers or information on the potential impacts of the wastes. Data are aggregated into hazardous and non-hazardous wastes, although within these broad categories there is potential for certain wastes to present a more significant risk to the environment due to their form or composition. Some countries do already collect data on waste composition as part of their national PRTR, although this is not requested as part of the E-PRTR data collection as there is currently no legal obligation to collect this information within the E-PRTR.

Some changes in year-to-year waste quantities reported to the E-PRTR may be related to the improved reporting and quality assurance of data both at a national and EU level. However, it is not possible to identify such variations in the reported data.

Within this indicator, Eurostat data are presented only for 2010 and later. Data are available for years before 2010, although there is some uncertainty over the consistency of these pre-2010 data compared with post-2010 data, hence it is not used in developing the indicator. The dataset includes estimates of the total quantity of waste generated based on activity NACE codes, with data also available per country. However, only EU-28 data aggregated data are used in this indicator.  

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified. 

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Daniel Martin-Montalvo Álvarez


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
INDP 004
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Industry Industry

Frequency of updates

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


DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)


Document Actions