Municipal waste statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from March 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article shows trends in municipal waste generation and treatment in the European Union (EU) from 1995 to 2012. There is a very distinct trend towards less landfilling as countries move steadily towards alternative ways of treating waste.

Municipal waste accounts for only about 10 % of total waste generated. However, it has a very high political profile because of its complex character, due to its composition, its distribution among many sources of waste, and its link to consumption patterns.

The article includes an analysis of the evidence on decoupling, i.e. on breaking the link between the production of material wealth and the production of waste. It also identifies the different strategies countries use to treat municipal waste.

Figure 1: Municipal waste generated by country in 2003 and 2012, sorted by 2012 level (kg per capita) - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)
Table 1: Municipal waste generated by country in selected years (kg per capita) - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)

Main statistical findings

Municipal waste generated by country

Eurostat has collected and published data on municipal waste since 1995. These data are widely used for comparing municipal waste generation and treatment in different countries, and indicators on municipal waste are used to monitor European waste policies. The data on municipal waste expressed in kilograms per capita are part of a set of indicators compiled annually to monitor the EU’s sustainable development strategy.

The data cover the period from 1995 to 2012 for the 28 EU Member States (Croatia only has complete sets since 2006). For the candidate countries, coverage is as follows: The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (since 2008), Serbia (since 2006) and Turkey. For the EFTA countries, Iceland (also a candidate country since June 2010), Norway and Switzerland, and the potential candidate country Bosnia and Herzegovina (since 2008), data are given to the extent possible.

Figure 1 and Table 1 show municipal waste generation by country expressed in kilograms per capita. To illustrate trends, Table 1 shows waste for selected years, covering the period 1995 to 2012. For better readability, Figure 1 covers only the years 2003 and 2012.  Both include the EU-27 aggregates for comparison.  In Figure 1, countries are sorted in decreasing order by municipal waste generation in 2012.

For 2012, municipal waste generation totals vary considerably, ranging from 668 kg per capita in Denmark to 279 kg per capita in Estonia. The variations reflect differences in consumption patterns and economic wealth, but also depend greatly on how municipal waste is collected and managed. There are pronounced differences between countries regarding the degree to which waste from commerce, trade and administration is collected and managed together with waste from households. Households generate between 60 % and 90 % of municipal waste while the remainder can be attributed to commercial sources and administration.

If the periods 1995-2003 and 2003-2012 are analysed, not taking into account intermediate lows or highs, they show the following trends in the 31 countries with complete time series.

In 21 of the 31 countries, the amount of municipal waste generated per capita increased between 1995 and 2012, rising fairly steadily in 10 of these countries. The highest average annual growth rates were recorded for Greece (3.1 %), Malta (2.4 %) and Denmark (1.5 %). In the remaining 11 countries, the overall rising trend was interrupted around 2003. Of these 11 countries, eight showed a rise from 1995 to 2003. The highest average annual growth rates were observed in Austria, Ireland and Sweden, before the amounts stabilised or fell slightly between 2003 and 2012.

Conversely, three countries, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland, reported falls in waste generation from 1995 to 2003, followed by a rise between 2003 and 2012.

Of the ten countries with an overall decrease from 1995 to 2012, only two (Bulgaria and Slovenia) showed a fall both before and after 2003. Slovenia showed the largest reduction, with a steady annual average fall of 2.9 %, followed by Bulgaria (-2.4 % per annum).

In the eight other cases, the fall was not observed in both periods. The figures for Turkey and Hungary show a small rise up to 2003, by less than 0.1 % per annum, followed by average annual falls of 1.4% and 1.6 %, respectively. For Germany an average annual drop of 0.4 % could be observed for the first period followed by a small average yearly increase of 0.2% in the second period. The United Kingdom, Iceland, Estonia and Spain reported overall average falls in the second period (-2.5, -3.9, -4.3 and  -3.6 % per annum) that were larger than their rises in the first period. For Norway, the opposite is the case (-5.3 %) per annum until 2003 and an average of 1.9 % per annum in the second period. However, trends in Spain and Norway and most likely Iceland are mainly due to a retrospective reassessment and methodological changes (corrections of overcoverage). It is therefore difficult to assess the overall trend for these three countries.

From 2004 on, methodologies were finalised in most countries, so the waste generation time series of 2004 and later is more accurate and stable than that between 1995 and 2003.  

Municipal waste treated in Europe

Table 2: Municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted in the EU-27, 1995 to 2012 - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)
Figure 2: Municipal waste treatment by type of treatment, EU-27, (kg per capita), 1995 - 2012 - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)

In this section, differences in the management of municipal waste are shown and treatment strategies are identified based on reported amounts of municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted. Countries were asked to distinguish between incineration with and without energy recovery. However, as no clear classification criteria have been applied so far, the comparability of results among countries and over time remains fairly limited[1] , so the current data only allows the analysis of the total amount incinerated.

Table 2 shows the amount of municipal waste treated in the European Union (EU-27) for the period 1995 to 2012 by treatment method, in million tonnes and kg per capita. Figure 2 shows the amount of waste generated at EU-27 level and the amount of waste by treatment category (landfill, incineration, recycling, composting).

The ‘other treatment’ category was calculated as the difference between the sum of the amounts treated and the amounts of waste generated. This difference arises in countries that have to estimate waste generation in areas not covered by a municipal waste collection scheme and thus report more waste generated than treated. In 1995, an estimated 91 % of the population was covered by collection schemes, rising to 97 % by 2012, leading to a decrease in ‘other treatment’.

In addition, the ‘other treatment’ category reflects the effects of import and export, weight losses, double-counting of secondary waste (e.g. landfilling and recycling of residues from incineration), differences due to time lags, temporary storage and, increasingly, the use of pre-treatment, such as mechanical biological treatment (MBT). This may even lead to a rise in ‘other treatment’ for a given year. At EU-27 level, these effects contribute only marginally and tend to cancel each other out. However, at country level, the effects are considerable. The section below, ‘Municipal waste treated by country’ gives a more detailed description at country level.

Even though more waste is being generated in the EU-27, the total amount of municipal waste landfilled has gone down. In the reference period, the total municipal waste landfilled in the EU-27 fell by 61.7 million tonnes, or 43 %, from 143 million tonnes (300 kg per capita) in 1995 to 81.2 million tonnes (162 kg per capita) in 2012. That corresponds to an annual decline of 3.3 %. Since 2003, landfilling has fallen by as much as 4.6 % per year.

As a result, the landfilling rate in the EU-27 dropped from 63 % in 1995 to 34 % in 2012.

This reduction can partly be attributed to the implementation of European legislation, for instance Directive 62/1994 on packaging and packaging waste. By 2001, Member States had to recover a minimum of 50 % of all packaging put on the market. With the revised recovery target of 60 % to be achieved by 31 December 2008, there was a further rise in the amount of packaging waste collected separately.

Furthermore, Directive 31/1999 on landfill stipulated that Member States were obliged to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfills to 75 % by 16 July 2006, to 50 % by 16 July 2009 and to 35 % by 16 July 2016.The reduction was calculated on the basis of the total amount of biodegradable municipal waste produced in 1995. The Directive has led to countries adopting different strategies to stop sending the organic fraction of municipal waste to landfill, namely composting (including fermentation), incineration and pre-treatment, such as mechanical-biological treatment (including physical stabilisation).

As a result, the amount of waste recycled rose from 25.1 million tonnes (53 kg per capita) in 1995 to 65.9 million tonnes (132 kg per capita) in 2012. That corresponds to overall growth by a factor of 2.6, at an annual rate of 5.8 %. The share of municipal waste recycled overall rose from 11 % to 27 %.

The recovery of organic material by composting has grown with an average annual rate of 5.5 %. Recycling and composting together accounted for 42 % of organic material in 2012, and have exceeded the share sent to landfill since 2008.

Waste incineration has also grown steadily in the reference period, though not as much as recycling and composting. Since 1995, the amount of municipal waste incinerated in the EU-27 has risen by 25.9 million tonnes or 81 % and accounted for 58.1 million tonnes or 24 % of the total amount treated in 2012. Municipal waste incinerated has thus risen from 67 kg per capita to 116 kg per capita.

Mechanical biological treatment (MBT) and sorting of waste are not covered directly as categories in the reporting of municipal waste treatment. These types of pre-treatment require an additional final treatment. In practice, the amounts delivered to mechanical biological treatment or sorting should be reported on the basis of the subsequent final treatment steps. However, the way these amounts are allocated to the four treatment categories (incineration, landfilling, recycling and composting) varies significantly, and some countries report only on the first (pre-)treatment step.

As a consequence, reporting on the current set of variables often requires additional information to relate the amounts of municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted to the amounts generated at country level. The information available on this is covered below.

Municipal waste treatment by country

Figure 3: Municipal waste treated in 2012 by country and treatment category, sorted by landfilling (%), 2012 - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)
Figure 4: Municipal waste treated in 2012 by country and treatment category, sorted by landfilling (kg per capita), 2012 - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)

Figure 3 and Figure 4 show the huge differences between countries with regard to the state of their waste management systems.

Figure 3 shows the amounts of municipal waste landfilled, incinerated, recycled and composted in 2012 as a percentage of total amounts treated.

Figure 4 shows the corresponding figures in kg per capita. Both are sorted by the percentage of waste amounts landfilled relative to total amounts treated.

Several countries are very advanced in diverting municipal waste from landfills. This is usually because they have implemented national measures to reduce landfilling. Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Norway and Belgium have reported landfill rates below 5 %.

In Sweden and Denmark, there has been a ban on landfilling combustible waste since 2002 and 1997 respectively. The waste has to be recycled, treated by anaerobic digestion or incinerated. This strategy gives these two countries the highest incineration rates for municipal waste in the EU-27, with 52 % for both countries, matched only by the incineration rate of Switzerland (50 %) and Norway (56 %). These four countries, together with Finland and the Netherlands, were the only ones for which the amounts incinerated equalled or exceeded the amounts recycled and composted. In most countries, the combined total for recycling and composting was higher than that for incineration.

Landfilling rates in the Netherlands fell in the 1990s as a result of recycling, composting and incineration of municipal waste. They fell even further when the direct disposal of mixed municipal waste was banned as of 2003, resulting in only 8 kg per capita municipal waste directly landfilled in 2012.

In Sweden, the amount landfilled dropped from 42 kg per capita in 2004 to 23 kg per capita in 2005 and right down to 3 kg per capita in 2012 after the introduction of a ban on landfilling organic material in 2005.

In Germany, landfilling has been reduced steadily over the last decade, mainly by recycling, mechanical biological treatment and incineration. It dropped sharply due to the ban on landfilling untreated municipal waste that entered into force on 30 June 2005.

Similarly, since 2004, Austria only allows landfilling for pre-treated waste. As a result, the share of landfill has gone down from 30 % in 2003 to 3 % in 2012. The incineration rate has increased accordingly, from 12 % to 33 % over the same period.

However, in some cases, a low rate of landfill is also due to excluding residues of other operations from reporting. With regard to landfilling, this concerns in particular the stabilised fraction from mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) and residues from sorting. In the guidance document on municipal waste data collection, that Eurostat published in November 2012, countries are asked to report the outputs of pre-treatment under one of the four current treatment categories, while residues from incineration do not have to be reported.

This is the case in all countries with municipal waste statistics that rely on the amounts delivered to the first treatment facilities after collection. This is known to be the case for Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark and part of Belgium, i.e. in some of the countries with the lowest landfill rates. It also applies in some countries with higher landfill rates, such as Portugal, the Czech Republic and Romania. In many countries, the reporting approach has not yet been defined, but should become more transparent now that quality reports for municipal waste have been introduced in the course of the survey for reference year 2012.

Luxembourg reported a landfill rate of 17 %, while France, Finland, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy reported rates between 28 % to 42 %. If categorised by landfill rates, 12 of the 14 countries with the lowest rates belong to the former EU-15.

Among the Member States which joined the EU before 2004, landfill rates in 2012 were highest in Greece (81 %), Spain (63 %)and Portugal (54 %).

The highest rates for recycling were reported by Germany (47 %, 284 kg per capita), Ireland(37 %, 208 kg per capita), Belgium (36 %, 165 kg per capita), Iceland (36 %, 122 kg per capita) and Switzerland (35 %, 241 kg per capita). For composting, Austria (32 %, 179 kg per capita) and the Netherlands (26 %, 141 kg per capita) reported the highest rates. Belgium was among the countries with the highest rates for both recycling (36 %) and composting (21 %).

Ireland and Greece are the only countries of the Member States which joined the EU before 2004 without incineration facilities for municipal waste, although Ireland reported 16 % for incineration in 2012. This was almost exclusively attributed to coincineration of refused derived fuel, but also use of wood waste as a fuel and use of edible oils and fats in biodiesel processing. Ireland has succeeded in considerably reducing the amount of municipal waste going to landfills in the last 10 years, by about 48 %, thanks to making good progress on recycling.

In the Member States which joined the EU in or after 2004 and candidate countries, as well as in Iceland, landfilling is still the predominant waste management option. Landfill rates in these countries range between 35 % in Estonia and 100 % in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There are few waste incineration facilities, while collection and recycling schemes are in some cases still in their infancy.

Seven of these countries do report some incineration of municipal waste. The rate is highest in the Czech Republic (20 %, 62 kg per capita), followed by Estonia (12 %, 34 kg per capita), Iceland (8 %, 26 kg per capita), Hungary (9 %, 37 kg per capita) and Slovakia (10 %, 31 kg per capita). In the others, the incineration rate is under 5 %.

As could be expected from the figures on waste generation, Figure 4 shows wide variations in the amounts treated per capita. The sorting by percentage of landfilling illustrates the trend that countries with high landfill rates generally show lower total amounts treated than those with lower landfill rates.

Except for Cyprus (663 kg per capita), Malta (583 kg per capita) and Greece (503 kg per capita) all countries on the right side of Figure 4 show under 500 kg per capita of waste generated.

These countries report landfill rates of around 60 % or more, as shown in Figure 3, whereas of the remaining 20 countries on the left side of Figure 4, only five countries reported total amounts of waste generated much lower than 500 kg per capita (Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal and Iceland).

The high figures for Cyprus and Malta can be attributed to a high proportion of commercial waste, as well as to the impact of tourism, as these countries had the highest tourism intensity indicators in Europe in 2012[2].

Apart from the four treatment categories discussed above, Figure 3 and Figure 4 show significant differences in the category ‘other treatments’, which reflect the differences between the sum of the amounts treated according to the reported figures for the four treatment categories and the total amount generated. In nine countries, the difference is higher than 10 %. Over recent years, Eurostat has investigated the reasons for these differences together with these countries. The evidence documented so far shows the following main reasons for the difference between waste generation and treatment:

  1. Estimates for waste generated by the population not served by municipal waste collection schemes are included in the figure for municipal waste generation for the following countries (% population covered by municipal waste collection schemes): Romania (74 %), Poland (80 %), Estonia (95 %), Ireland (not available), Bulgaria (99 %), Lithuania (99 %) and Croatia (99 %);
  2. Losses from MBT/sorting processes are observed in: Italy, Estonia (partly) and Malta (partly);
  3. Treatments not covered by the four current treatment categories were not reported e.g. in the United Kingdom (MBT, ‘other alternative treatment technologies’);
  4. Amounts temporarily stored or exported are not included in: Estonia (partly), Latvia, Lithuania (partly), Malta (mostly).

On the other hand, some countries where MBT is known to be in place, and where mass losses would be expected to occur, report no difference between the two figures (e.g. Germany, Spain). Germany reports the input for MBT under incineration, while Spain does not include it in its reporting at all.

For the remaining countries, the reason for the difference is not yet known. Therefore, it is not known whether the gap between municipal waste generated and treated is due to mass losses from MBT or whether other reasons apply.


Municipal waste treatment strategies

Map 1: Waste treatment strategy by country groups, 2012 - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun)

As regards strategies for waste treatment, the European Environment Agency (EEA) offered a reasonable approach for a grouping that takes into account the combined rates of incineration and material recovery (represented as the sum of recycling and composting). The results of this approach were published in 2007, based on data up to reference year 2005[3].

The rationale of the EEA approach is that countries may follow different strategies to divert waste from landfills. These strategies are characterised either by a combination of material recovery and incineration, or by focusing mainly on material recovery and less on incineration. Either of these may be seen as quite effective in diverting waste from being landfilled.

If material recovery is supplemented by incineration, a lower level of landfilling may be achieved, as incineration facilities have the advantage of being able to use waste that cannot be used for material recovery but has reasonable heat value. Incineration may also divert biodegradable material of lower heat value away from landfill after pre-treatment such as stabilisation and/or drying by mechanical-biological or mechanical-physical processes.

Map 1 shows the results of this approach for the latest data of reference year 2012. The first group shows countries that apply a combined strategy, with high rates of more than 25 % for material recovery (composting and recycling), as well as incineration.

The second group consists of countries where systems for recycling and composting are established, achieving a high rate of material recovery, over 25 %,, but where incineration rates fall short of 25 %. The third group relies mostly on landfilling as a treatment option, also with low rates of under 25 % for incineration and material recovery.

Note that the percentages in Map 1 were, in line with the EEA publication, calculated in relation to the total amounts of waste generated.

Group 1 covers the 11 countries with the lowest landfill rates (Figures 3 and 4). Groups 2 and 3 deviate from the strict order by landfill rate because Poland, despite having landfill rates lower than 60 %, belong to group 3 on account of its low share for material recovery (below 25 %), while Spain, Bulgaria and Hungary reported material recovery of 27 %, 25 % and 25 %, with higher landfill rates of 63 % and 69 % and 65 % respectively.

The population is fairly evenly distributed among the three groups, with each group representing roughly 200 million inhabitants, ranging from 184 million (group 3) to 208 million (group 1).

Regarding geographical distribution, group 1, with the ‘most advanced’ treatment strategy, is concentrated in North-Western Europe. The other two groups are located stepwise around group 1 in all directions, except east, where countries belonging to group 3 share direct borders with countries in group 1.

Development of municipal waste treatment strategies since 1995

Figure 5: Development of municipal waste treatment, 1995 to 2012 by treatment groups and category, (% kg per capita)

Trends in waste treatment in the three identified groups of countries are shown in Figure 5. The type of treatment is shown as a percentage of waste generation and in kg per capita. The per capita values were calculated as the sum of treated volume for the countries in one group divided by the sum of the overall inhabitants of the same group and year. The category ‘other’ reflects the difference between waste generation and total treatment.

The figures in kg per capita confirm the finding mentioned above, i.e. that in countries with high landfill rates, the total amounts generated and treated in kg per capita in 2012 are lower than in countries with low landfill rates. In 2012, the total amount per capita was 375 kg in group 3, compared with 565 kg in group 1 and 481 kg in group 2.

The trend over time even suggests that the overall increase in waste generation from 1995 to 2012 was larger in groups 1 (5 %) and 3 (3 %) than in group 2, where there was even a decrease of 1 %. Thus, group 1 shows the largest amounts and the largest per capita growth in 1995 to 2012, group 3 the lowest amounts in 2012 and a moderate growth, while for group 2 a decline was observed.

Groups 1 and 2 show a similar trend with regard to the absolute reduction of the percentage landfilled. In group 1, the landfill rate decreased from 42 % to 10 %. In group 2, the share of waste landfilled fell from 79 % to 47 %, mainly due to the enormous increase in recycling, from 5 % to 23 %. Group 3 achieved an absolute reduction of 5 % (from 82 % 1995 to 77 % in 2012).

Considering the much lower starting level in group 1 for waste landfilled, the relative fall in landfill rates was by far the highest in this group (76 %, from 225 kg to 54 kg per capita). In group 2, the reduction in landfilling amounted to 41 % (from 384 kg in 1995 to 226 kg per capita in 2012), while in group 3, the amounts landfilled in 2012 (287 kg per capita) were 3 % lower than those in 1995 (296 kg per capita).

Although the total amount of municipal waste treated per capita in 2012 is much higher in group 2 than in group 3, the per capita amounts of municipal waste landfilled in 2012 are not very different, with 287 kg and 226 kg per capita respectively. In contrast to this, group 1 countries managed to reduce the already low amounts landfilled in 1995 further in the period up to 2012, mainly by recycling and composting, with increases overall of 83 % and 54 %. Progress with regard to recycling and incineration was low in group 3 in absolute terms, and cannot easily be identified in the graph. Recycling rose substantially from 1995 to 2012, by a factor of 14, from 1.4 kg to 20 kg per capita.

Regarding the category ‘other treatment’, this is most significant in group 3, with an overall decrease from 17 % in 1995 to 14 % in 2012, as more of the population is covered by collection schemes for municipal waste. The lowest rates are observed in group 1, with varying shares of between 0 % and 2 % throughout the whole period covered. In group 2, the rates for ‘other treatment’ decreased from 10 % in 1995 to 1 % in 2012. This development seems to reflect a combined effect of an increasing population covered (decrease in 'other treatment') and a rise in the use of mechanical-biological treatment in this group and the associated mass losses (increase in 'other treatment').The results can be summarised as follows:

- In several countries belonging to group 1, national measures were introduced to limit the landfilling of municipal waste. This has most likely contributed to the steep rise in recycling, composting and incineration;

- Countries belonging to group 2 have set up some measures to divert municipal waste from landfilling, and the trend is pointing in the right direction;

- Apart from Estonia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovenia, all  Member States which joined the EU after 2004 are in group 3. There has only been limited progress in diverting municipal waste from landfilling;

- However, the amounts of municipal waste generated are notably lower than for the other two groups of countries;

- Greece and Portugal lag behind trends in other  Member States which joined the EU before 2004.

Municipal waste generated and economic trends in Europe

Table 3: Municipal waste generated, population and GDP in the EU-27 from 1995 to 2012 - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun) (demo_gind) and (nama_gdp_k)
Figure 6: Municipal waste generated, population and GDP in the EU-27 from 1995 to 2012 (1995=100) - Source: Eurostat (env_wasmun) (demo_gind) and (nama_gdp_k)

Table 3 shows the data aggregates for the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU-27) for municipal waste generation, population and selected economic parameters.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is used as an economic parameter and a driver of municipal waste generation. The table shows municipal waste generated in tonnes as well as per capita. Trends since 1995 are shown in Figure 6.

From 1995 to 2002, there was a steady rise in the generation of municipal waste in the EU-27. Municipal waste generation grew by 29.7 million tonnes, or 13 %, from 226.2 million tonnes to 255.8 million tonnes. This corresponds to an average annual growth rate of 1.9 %. This trend was interrupted in 2003 and 2004, which can to some extent be attributed to changes in methodology and classification which reportedly took place in many countries in the period around 2002.

This decrease was followed by a further rise from 2004 to 2008, by 7.6 million tonnes to 259.2 million tonnes, then a steady decrease to 246.6 million tonnes up to 2012.

Up to 2002, the increase in waste generation exceeded population growth. Accordingly, the population-related indicator on municipal waste generated also rose. The indicator grew at an average rate of 1.5 % per year, from 474 kg per capita in 1995 to 526 kg per capita in 2002. In 2003, the indicator fell to 514 kg per capita. The subsequent increase to 522 kg per capita in 2007 did not raise the indicator above the level recorded in 2002. By 2012, the indicator fell to 492 kg per capita, i.e. approximately to the 1997 level.

The drop in 2009 after steady growth from 2003 to 2008 was also observed in the series of many countries. This was explained by economic growth until 2008, followed by a decline in 2009.

At EU-27 level, GDP showed an upward trend, with an annual growth rate of 1.7 %, from 1995 to 2012. Annual economic growth thus clearly exceeded that of municipal waste generation over that period (0.5 %). Economic growth (2.2 % per annum) was much higher than municipal waste generation (0.2 % per annum), especially between 2002 and 2008. The relationship between economic development and municipal waste generation is illustrated by the line ‘MW generation per EUR (GDP)’, i.e. a moderate decline up to 2002, by 0.7 % per year, and a sharp decline by 1.9 % per year between 2002 and 2008. In 2009, the economic decline was even sharper than for waste generation, pushing the value for waste back to the level for 2006 (22.5 kg per EUR).

The data do not yet show conclusively that municipal waste generation in the European Union has reached its peak, since the decline after 2008 can be attributed mainly to the economic downturn. It will be interesting to see the trend as the economy recovers. Nevertheless, the figures do indicate that municipal waste generation, particularly the per capita rate, has slowed down since 2002.

Municipal waste generated and landfilled – regional data

Map 2: Generation of municipal waste per capita in NUTS 2 regions.
Map 3: Municipal waste landfilled per capita in NUTS 2 regions.

Map 2 illustrates the generation of municipal waste per capita for the NUTS 2 regions of Member States for which data are available. The generation of municipal waste is classified by five groups labelled with a classification colour (the darker the colour, the higher the per capita generation). Municipal waste generation per capita is significantly lower in the East European countries than in West European countries. About 450 kg per capita of municipal waste are generated on average in the NUTS 2 regions covered by data collection. Regions with municipal waste of less than 450 kg per capita are mainly in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and in most regions of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Turkey.

Waste generation in Western European regions ranges predominantly between 450 kg per capita and 600 kg per capita. Rates of more than 600 kg per capita are seen in Ireland, Switzerland, Cyprus and in some regions of Scotland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Italy. Particularly high levels of waste generation, over 750 kg per capita, are found in two regions: the tourist region of the Algarve in Portugal (PT15) and Zeeland in the Netherlands (NL34). In Portugal, waste generation varies considerably across the regions, ranging from 420 kg per capita in northern regions to more than 800 kg per capita in the Algarve.

In the UK, waste generation is rather homogenous, ranging between 389 kg per capita to 574 kg per capita. Only two Scottish regions have higher levels, more than 600 kg per capita. For Turkey, the map shows that waste generation is clearly higher in the western regions than in the more rural areas of Middle and East Anatolia.

Map 3 shows the amount of municipal waste landfilled per capita and year for each region. One of the main objectives of EU waste policies is the diversion of waste from landfills. The share of landfilling compared to other treatment options is thus a good indicator of the status of municipal waste management in relation to this objective.

It is assumed that landfilling of waste is predominantly taking place in the region where the waste was generated.

Several regions are very advanced in reducing the quantity of municipal waste going to landfills. Landfill rates of less than 10 % are achieved in Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, in most Belgian regions and in the Portuguese region of Madeira. In these regions, landfilled municipal waste amounts to less than 50 kg per capita per annum, and in most cases, even to less than 10 kg per capita.

In the UK, the landfill rate varies widely across the regions, from 12 % for Hampshire to over 60 % in some Scottish regions and in Northern Ireland.

There are unfavourably high landfill rates of more than 75 % in Croatia, Cyprus, Malta, Lithuania and in several regions of Portugal, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.

Regions with high landfill rates are not necessarily among the countries with the highest landfilled amounts per capita, as they may generate less waste. For this reason, some regions with high landfill rates, for instance in Poland and Hungary, do not show particularly high amounts of waste landfilled when measured in kg per capita per annum. In Malta, Cyprus and the Algarve (Portugal), however, landfilling is high in relative terms as well as in absolute amounts.

Data sources and availability

The data were extracted from the Eurostat database on18 February 2014. Average population values (extracted on 28 February 2014) were used to calculate kg per capita. For GDP, extracted on 16 February 2014, the data were used in euro as chain-linked volumes, reference year 2005 (at 2005 exchange rates).


The municipal waste classification is based on the definitions for the section on waste in the OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire. Further information is available in the ESMS metadata sheet on municipal waste.

MW generated / MW collected: The data refer to the amount of municipal waste generated. In countries with complete (national) coverage of their municipal waste collection scheme the total of municipal waste generated is equal to the total of municipal waste collected. Some countries do not cover their whole territory with a collection scheme. These countries have added an estimate of the waste generated in areas not covered. For some countries data prior to 2008 refer to municipal waste collected, as it was not possible to make an estimate for the population not covered.

Data include the overseas departments (département d’outre-mer or DOM) Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion and French Guiana.

Data for Cyprus refer only to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

Data for Liechtenstein are included in Switzerland.


All the data presented here were collected by Eurostat since the start of the 1990. Eurostat has conducted surveys on European waste data using the OECD/Eurostat-Joint Questionnaire as the main source. After the introduction of the Regulation 2150/2002 of 25 November 2002 on waste statistics the data collection on municipal waste based on the joint Questionnaire was continued to maintain the time series and to offer consistent data in an international context outside the EU (OECD, UN).  

See also

Further Eurostat information


Main tables

Waste statistics (t_env_wasr)
Generation of waste by economic activity (ten00106)
Generation of waste by economic activity (hazardous, non-hazardous), 2008 (ten00107)
Generation of waste by waste category (ten00108)
Generation of waste by waste category (hazardous, non-hazardous), 2008 (ten00109)
Waste generated by households by year and waste category (ten00110)
Waste generated by households and by waste category (hazardous, non-hazardous), 2008 (ten00111)
Recovery rates for packaging waste (ten00062)
Recycling rates for packaging waste (ten00063)


Waste statistics (env_was)
Waste generation and treatment (env_wasgt)

Dedicated section

Source data for tables and figures on this page (MS Excel)

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

External links


  1. The new Waste Framework Directive now offers in Annex II an energy efficiency criterion that is expected to objectify the classification of incineration facilities and to improve data comparability. The criterion came into force by 12 December 2010.
  2. According to Eurostat data, Cyprus and Malta had 17 and 19 nights spent by tourists per permanent resident, followed by Croatia (14), Austria (13) and Iceland (11). All other countries had values below 10 (EU 27: 5); Source: Eurostat (tour_occ_ninat).
  3. European Environment Agency, 2007, The road from landfilling to recycling: common destination, different routes, Copenhagen.