Waste recycling

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: CSI 052 , WST 005
Created 29 Feb 2016 Published 07 Dec 2016 Last modified 23 Sep 2019
9 min read
This indicator shows trends in recycling rates for several waste types — municipal waste, packaging waste, waste excluding major mineral wastes and WEEE — at an aggregated European level (EU-28 and other European countries for which data were available). For municipal waste and packaging waste, data are also presented at country level together with related targets for packaging waste. Municipal and packaging waste recycling rates refer to waste recycled as a proportion of waste generated. Recycling rates for waste excluding major mineral wastes refer to waste recycled as a proportion of waste treated. WEEE recycling rates refer to waste recycled as a proportion of the average quantity of electrical and electronic equipment put on the market in the previous 3 years. Higher recycling rates indicate a more positive development towards using waste as a resource and a circular economy.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

The proposed core set of indicators on waste (i.e. WST 004 Waste generation, WST 005 Waste recycling and WST 006 Diversion of waste from landfill) address relevant policy questions, referring to the objectives and targets of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), other relevant directives and the 2015 and 2018 circular economy packages, as well as the 2011 Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (COM (2011) 571) and the Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP). These policy questions are also expected to be relevant in the coming years, at least until 2020 (and 2030). As such, the proposed indicators reflect on the elements of the waste hierarchy, in particular on waste prevention, waste recycling and waste diversion from landfill.

This indicator on waste recycling aims to show whether or not Europe is making progress towards the overall objective of moving European waste management up the waste hierarchy and moving Europe towards a circular economy, to meet the material demand of the economy through increasing the proportion of waste-derived materials used as secondary raw materials, thereby preventing the environmental impacts associated with extracting and refining virgin materials and contributing to supply security.

This indicator shows and describes in detail trends in recycling rates for two waste types — municipal waste and packaging waste — at both an aggregated European level and country level, to support an early warning mechanism. For a better perception of the overall trend in waste recycling also recycling rates of waste excluding major mineral wastes and recycling of WEEE were supplemented (for both waste streams aggregated at European level). Because of the limited availability and quality of waste data, the indicator currently does not include other important waste streams, such as biowaste or batteries and accumulators.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

This indicator shows trends in recycling rates for several waste types — municipal waste, packaging waste, waste excluding major mineral wastes and WEEE — at an aggregated European level (EU-28 and other European countries for which data were available). For municipal waste and packaging waste, data are also presented at country level together with related targets for packaging waste. Municipal and packaging waste recycling rates refer to waste recycled as a proportion of waste generated. Recycling rates for waste excluding major mineral wastes refer to waste recycled as a proportion of waste treated. WEEE recycling rates refer to waste recycled as a proportion of the average quantity of electrical and electronic equipment put on the market in the previous 3 years. Higher recycling rates indicate a more positive development towards using waste as a resource and a circular economy.

Units

The unit used for recycling rates in all figures is percentage (%).

Policy context and targets

Context description

Europe's approach to waste management has moved from one aimed at reducing the harm to human health and the environment from waste disposal towards one that treats waste as an important resource. The overarching logic guiding EU policy on waste is based on the waste hierarchy, which prioritises waste prevention, followed by preparing for reuse, recycling, other recovery and, finally, disposal or landfilling, which is the least desirable option. The 2011 Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (COM (2011) 571) contains a section on turning waste into a resource. This focuses on prioritising reuse and recycling and developing a combination of policies that help create a full recycling economy. In addition, the roadmap contains a milestone such that by 2020 'recycling and reuse of waste are economically attractive options for public and private actors due to widespread separate collection and the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials. More materials, including materials having a significant impact on the environment and critical raw materials, are recycled'.

The 7th EAP, adopted more recently, in November 2013, stresses the need for the full implementation of EU waste legislation with a particular focus on the waste hierarchy. The vision set out in the 7th EAP is that 'recycled waste should be used as a major, reliable source of raw material for the Union, through the development of non-toxic material cycles'. Although existing waste policies have been successful so far, there is still large potential to move towards a circular economy where ultimately nothing is wasted.

In 2015, the European Commission adopted the action plan for the circular economy. The 2015 circular economy package contains a vision and a list of concrete actions along the whole value chain aimed at moving towards a circular economy in Europe, including in relation to design and production, through consumption to waste and secondary raw materials management. In this way, the circular economy concept can be implemented not only through waste policies, but also through policies on industry, competitiveness, products and raw materials.

EU waste policies include a number of specific provisions and targets for the collection, recycling and diversion from landfill of different waste streams, such as packaging, end-of-life vehicles, WEEE, batteries and municipal and biodegradable municipal waste.

In 2018, the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC) were amended by a new circular economy package. Directive (EU) 2018/852 amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste set new targets for the recycling of packaging waste, and Directive (EU) 2018/851 amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste set targets for the Member States for the preparing for reuse and recycling of at least municipal waste, paper, metals, plastic and glass from households and similar waste streams, and for the recovery of construction and demolition waste. One element of the circular economy package is a legislative proposal on waste that includes more ambitious targets for the recycling of packaging waste and municipal waste.

Targets

New targets were set in 2018 by the new circular economy package, which contains revised legislation.

Article 11 of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) was amended by Directive (EU) 2018/851 and includes the following targets to be achieved by all Member States:

  • By 2015, separate collection for at least paper, metal, plastic and glass must be set up.
  • By 2025, separate collection for textiles must be set up.
  • By 2020, preparing for the reuse and recycling of waste materials — 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 — must be increased to a minimum of 50 % by weight.
  • The level of preparation for the reuse and recycling of municipal waste must be increased to 55 % by 2025, 60 % by 2030 and 65 % by 2035.
  • Member States must choose from four different methods for monitoring progress towards recycling targets according to Commission Decision 2011/753/EU. This indicator shows data based on only one of these methods, namely the most ambitious one. Reliable and comparable data based on the other methods do not currently exist.

Article 20 of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) was also supplemented by Directive (EU) 2018/851 and set the following target to be achieved by Member States:

  • By 2025, separate collection for hazardous waste fractions produced by households must be set up.

Article 6 of the Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC) was supplemented by Directive (EU) 2018/852 in 2018 and includes the following targets:

  • A minimum of 65 % by weight of all packaging waste must be recycled by no later than 31 December 2025, and a minimum of 70 % by weight of all packaging waste must be recycled by no later than 31 December 2030.
  • By no later than 31 December 2025, the following minimum recycling targets for materials contained in packaging waste must be attained: (1) 50 % for plastic; (2) 25 % for wood; (3) 70 % for ferrous metals; (4) 50 % for aluminium; (5) 70 % for glass; and (6) 75 % for paper and cardboard. 
  • By no later than 31 December 2030, the following minimum recycling targets for materials contained in packaging waste must be attained: (1) 55 % for plastic; (2) 30 % for wood; (3) 80 % for ferrous metals; (4) 60 % for aluminium; (5) 75 % for glass; and (6) 85 % for paper and cardboard.

Several Member States had varying derogation periods for these targets. Specifically, the derogation period for Czechia, Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia was set to 2012, and for Malta to 2013. Poland was required to meet the minimum target by 2014 and Latvia by 2015. Bulgaria and Romania were not included in Directive 2005/20/EC, amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste.

The European strategy for plastics in a circular economy set a target for plastics packaging:

  • By 2030, all plastics packaging placed on the EU market must be reusable or recyclable in a cost-effective manner.

Annex V to Directive 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) sets minimal recycling and reuse targets for different categories of WEEE.

Related policy documents

Key policy question

Are recycling rates increasing in Europe?

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Fig. 1: Recycling rates in Europe by waste stream

The recycling rates for municipal and packaging waste are calculated by dividing the amount of waste recycled by the amount of waste generated for each year. Recycling of municipal waste includes material recycling and composting and anaerobic digestion. The recycling rate for waste excluding major mineral wastes is calculated by dividing the amount of waste recycled by the amount of waste treated. The recycling rate of WEEE is calculated by multiplying the 'collection rate' as set out in the WEEE Directive with the 'reuse and recycling rate' set out in the WEEE Directive, where the 'collection rate' equals the volumes collected of WEEE in the reference year divided by the average quantity of electrical and electronic equipment put on the market in the previous 3 years (both expressed in mass units).  The 'reuse and recycling rate' is calculated by dividing the weight of WEEE that enters the recycling/preparing for reuse facility by the weight of all separately collected WEEE (both in mass units) in accordance with Article 11(2) of the WEEE Directive (2012/19/EU), considering that the total amount of collected WEEE is sent to treatment/recycling facilities.

Fig. 2: Municipal waste recycling rates in Europe by country

The municipal waste recycling rate is calculated by dividing the amount of municipal waste recycled by the amount of municipal waste generated for each respective year for each country individually. The recycling rate includes material recycling and composting and digestion.

Fig. 3: Packaging waste recycling rates in Europe by country

The packaging waste recycling rate is calculated by dividing the amount of packaging waste recycled by the amount of packaging waste generated for each respective year for each country individually. The figure includes horizontal lines showing the recycling targets set in the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and the 2018 circular economy package, which stipulate a minimum recycling rate of 55 % of packaging waste by 2008, 65 % by 2025 and 70 % by 2030. Not all countries had the same deadline for attaining these targets: acceding countries to the European Union negotiated derogations for reaching the 2008 target to no later than 2012 (Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia), 2013 (Malta), 2014 (Poland) or 2015 (Latvia). Bulgaria and Romania were not included in Directive 2005/20/EC, amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste.

Methodology for gap filling

Several methods for gap filling were applied. Where data for the latest data year were missing for a country, this gap was filled with data from the latest available year. If EU-28 aggregate data were missing, they were calculated as the sum of the country-specific data for the EU-28 countries. The average value of adjacent years was calculated for missing data if possible.  


Methodology references

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

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

Data sets uncertainty

Data set uncertainties can be found directly in the metadata and explanatory notes provided by Eurostat.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been identified in the rationale for this indicator.

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

Ozlem Durmus

Ownership

European Environment Agency (EEA)

Identification

Indicator code
CSI 052
WST 005
Specification
Version id: 1

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 2 years

Classification

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

Related content

Data references used

Latest figures and vizualizations

Relevant policy documents

Document Actions