Indicator Assessment

Municipal waste generation

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-6-en
  Also known as: CSI 016 , WST 001
Published 11 Jan 2013 Last modified 11 May 2021
11 min read

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This page was archived on 16 Feb 2015 with reason: No more updates will be done

One of the most important objectives of the EU policy is to decouple waste generation from economic growth. Data shows that Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generation in the EU-27 has been stabilising since 2000 albeit a high level of around 520 kg/capita. The effect of the economic downturn at the end of 2008 can be a reason of the further reductions in the amount of municipal waste generation from 2008 to 2011.

This indicator is discontinued because data availability does not fully meet the requirements for EEA indicators.

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

Municipal waste generation per capita in Europe

Note: Data for Greece for the year 1995 is missing. Data from the West Balkan countries are available from 2003 onwards. Specifically, data for Albania are available for the period 2003-2009, Croatia for 2004-2011, Serbia for 2006-2011, Montenegro only for the year 2009, Kosovo (under UNCR 1244/99) for the period 2007-2009.

Data source:

The recent EU policy instruments and strategies, such as the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) and the 6th Environmental Action Programme (EAP) prioritise waste prevention and decoupling of waste generation and its environmental impacts from economic growth. In the European Union, a relative decoupling from economic growth has already been achieved since the stabilization of MSW generation trend after 2000 which does not follow the simultaneous increase in the GDP. Contrary to the EU, municipal waste generation in the West Balkan region has been steadily increasing since 2003, going up to 374 kg/cap on average in 2011, exceeding the average 347 kg/capita in the EU-12. 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 of the region, but it is also assumed that the data collection methods have resulted in higher figures.

Municipal waste generation rates in the EU-12,Turkeyand the West Balkan countries are on average lower than in EU-15 and EFTA countries. In the EU-12, average generation appears to have remained relatively stable since the mid-nineties (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 in the EU-12 Member States. 

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 are not fully clear yet. 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 might have overestimated weight of municipal waste in the previous years based on 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 limited, but some signs of effective prevention can already be observed.

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 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 trend of waste generation and its size. In the EU-27, the annual generation per capita varies from 298 kg in Estonia up to 718 kg in Denmark in 2011. On the other hand, some countries have achieved a stabilisation of waste generation or even a reduction (e.g. Ireland, Sweden, UK) while others follow a constant increase (e.g. Portugal, Cyprus). Therefore, there is a lot of room for improvement if the successful policies and measures applied in some countries become widespread across Europe. 

Supporting information

Indicator definition

The indicator presents municipal waste generation, expressed in kg per person. Municipal waste refers to waste collected by or on behalf of municipalities; the main part originates from households, but waste from commerce and trade, office buildings, institutions and small businesses is also included.


kilogramme per person per year, percentage.


Policy context and targets

Context description

6th Community Environment Action Programme

  • Better resource efficiency and resource and waste management to bring about more sustainable production and consumption patterns, thereby decoupling the use of resources and the generation of waste from the rate of economic growth and aiming to ensure that the consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources does not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment.
  • Achieving a significant overall reduction in the volumes of waste generated through waste prevention initiatives, better resource efficiency and a shift towards more sustainable production and consumption patterns
  • A significant reduction in the quantity of waste going to disposal and the volumes of hazardous waste produced while avoiding an increase of emissions to air, water and soil;
  • Encouraging reuse, and for wastes that are still generated: Preference should be given to recovery and especially to recycling.

Commission Communication COM(2005) 666 "Taking sustainable use of resources forward: A Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste"

This strategy sets out guidelines for European Union (EU) action and describes the ways in which waste management can be improved and waste can be prevented.

  • Reducing the negative impact on the environment that is caused by waste throughout its life-span, from production to disposal, via recycling. This approach means that every item of waste is seen not only as a source of pollution to be reduced, but also as a potential resource to be exploited.
  • The objectives preceding the adoption of this strategy still apply, namely limiting waste, and promoting the re-use, recycling and recovery of waste. These objectives are integrated into the approach based on environmental impact and on the life-cycle of resources.

Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)

This Directive establishes a legal framework for the treatment of waste within the Community. It aims at protecting the environment and human health through the prevention of the harmful effects of waste generation and waste management.

  • Prime importance is to specify basic notions such as recovery and disposal, so as to better organise waste management activities, since the generation of waste is increasing within the European Union.
  • Reinforcing measures to be taken with regard to prevention as well as the reduction of the impacts of waste generation and waste management on the environment. Finally, the recovery of waste should be encouraged so as to preserve natural resources.

Directive on the landfill of waste (1999/31/EC)

  • By 2006, Member States are restricted to landfilling a maximum of 75% of the total amount by weight of BMW produced in 1995. This target increases to 50 % in 2009 and 35% in 2016.

  • Countries that landfilled more than 80 % of BMW produced in 1995 may postpone the attainment of these targets for a maximum of four years.


The 5th EU EAP had a target of 300 kg household waste per capita, but this target has been replaced by an overall objective to substantially reduce waste generation and disposal of waste in the 6th EU EAP.

The management of MSW is, to some extent, driven by landfill diversion targets set out in the Landfill Directive (See Landfill section). However, the recent revision to the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) includes the following target for household, and similar, waste:

  • by 2020, the preparing for re-use and the recycling of waste materials such as at least paper, metal, plastic and glass from households and possibly from other origins as far as these waste streams are similar to waste from households, shall be increased to a minimum of overall 50 % by weight.

Related policy documents



Methodology for indicator calculation

The base data set for the calculation of the indicators is the amount of municipal waste collected by or on behalf of municipal authorities, and the amounts recycled, landfilled and incinerated.

Municipal waste is a part of overall waste generated. The term 'municipal' is used in different ways in the EU-27 because of the different management practices applied in different countries.

The bulk of this waste stream is from households though 'similar' wastes from sources such as commerce, offices and public institutions are also included.

According to the OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire:

  • Municipal waste includes paper, paperboard and paper products, plastics, glass, metals, food and garden waste, and textiles.
  • Recycling is defined as any reprocessing of material in a production process that diverts it from the waste stream, except reuse as fuel.
  • Landfill is defined as deposit of waste into or onto land,
  • Incineration means thermal treatment of waste in an incineration plant.

For the calculation of specific waste generation in kg per capita, the national amounts of municipal waste collected are divided by the national population. Figures for WE and CEE countries are calculated by summing up the national figures, divided by the WE and CEE countries' population.

For the calculation of waste treatment distribution by method, the quantity treated by each method is divided by the total amount of municipal waste collected and expressing it as percentage.

Methodology for gap filling

If no data are available for a certain country and year, estimations are made by the Topic Centre to fill the gap.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

Data is taken from officially reported statistics only.

Data sets uncertainty

Because of different definitions of the concept, Municipal waste and the fact that some countries have reported data on municipal waste and others on household waste data are in general not comparable between member countries. Thus, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden do not include data on bulky waste as part of municipal waste, and very often not data on separately collected food waste and garden waste either. Southern European countries in general include very few waste types under municipal waste, indicating that data for traditional collection (bagged waste) apparently is the only big contributor to the total amount of municipal waste in these countries. The term, "waste from household and commercial activities" is an attempt to identify common and comparable parts of municipal waste. This concept and further details on comparability was presented in EEA topic report No 3/2000.

Rationale uncertainty


Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 016
  • WST 001
Frequency of updates
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
EEA Contact Info


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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