Recycling statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1

From Statistics Explained

Data from January 2009. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article belongs to a set of statistical articles which analyse the structure, development and characteristics of the various economic activities in the European Union (EU). According to the statistical classification of economic activities in the EU (NACE Rev 1.1), the present article covers the recycling of waste and scrap, corresponding to NACE Division 37, which is part of the water supply and recycling sector.

Table 1: Recovery of selected waste streams, 2006 (thousand tonnes) (1)
Table 2: Recycling (NACE Division 37). Structural profile, EU-27, 2006 (1).
Table 3: Recycling (NACE Division 37). Structural profile: ranking of top five Member States in terms of value added and persons employed, 2006
Table 4: Recycling (NACE Division 37). Expenditure, productivity and profitability, EU-27, 2006 (1)
Table 5: Recycling (NACE Division 37). Main indicators, 2006 (1)

NACE characterises recycling as the processing of used or unused, sorted or unsorted, waste and scrap into secondary raw materials which can then be used by other sectors as an intermediate good. Recycling, under this definition, involves a number of treatment stages, such as sorting, crushing, mechanical reduction, stripping, separation and cleaning which may be followed by further treatments to prepare raw materials for use by other sectors.

Recycling does not extend to the production of new final products, nor does it include the re-use of products (when no real transformation process is required). Nor does this article cover waste management, which NACE classifies separately, although it and recycling are closely related activities. Note also that substantial recycling may also be carried out by enterprises as ancillary activities, without the involvement of enterprises in the recycling sector.

Main statistical findings

An analysis of the volume of the recovery (reclamation, regeneration, recycling, re-refining) of waste shows that in excess of 1 088 billion tonnes of waste were recovered in the EU in 2006, with metallic waste, which is an important source of materials for metal processing activities, accounting for around 6.3 % of this total.

Structural profile

In 2006, the EU-27's recycling sector (NACE Division 37) had around 15.7 thousand enterprises which generated a value added of EUR 8.1 billion and employed 150.5 thousand persons. The recycling sector therefore contributed around one quarter of the total value added (25.8 %) for water supply and recycling (NACE Divisions 41 and 37) and closer to three tenths (28.9 %) of its workforce. In 2006 recycling was the smallest manufacturing (NACE Section D) NACE division in the EU-27 in employment and value added terms. In 2005 the EU-27's recycling sector was fairly equally split between the metal recycling subsector (NACE Group 37.1) and non-metal recycling (NACE Group 37.2). The non-metal recycling subsector was comparable in employment terms with the metal recycling subsector, both with a workforce of about 71.0 thousand persons. In value added terms, metal recycling was slightly larger than non-metal recycling in 2005, but incomplete data already available for 2006 shows that value added in both of these subsectors increased significantly in 2006.

France and the United Kingdom had the largest recycling sectors in the EU-27 in 2006, both in terms of value added and employment. Romania (2005) and Slovenia had the highest value added specialisation among the Member States[1] in recycling, as this sector contributed 0.3 % or more of their non-financial business economy (NACE Sections C to I and K) value added. In most of the Member States the metal recycling subsector generated higher value added than the non-metal recycling subsector, with the reverse situation only in two of the larger Member States, Germany and Italy, as well as in Belgium and the Netherlands (2005).

Expenditure and productivity

The EU-27's recycling sector recorded tangible investment valued at EUR 2.1 billion in 2006, leading to an investment rate of 25.9 %, well above the non-financial business economy average of 18.4 %. Denmark, Italy and the Czech Republic all recorded investment rates in this sector that were at least twice as high as the average for their national non-financial business economies.

Personnel costs accounted for a relatively low proportion of operating expenditure in the EU-27's recycling sector, just 9.6 %, which was well below the non-financial business economy average of 16.1 %. This share was particularly low for the metal recycling subsector (6.7 %), perhaps reflecting the relatively high expenditure on the purchase of metal waste and scrap for processing, whereas for non-metal recycling the share of personnel costs (16.7 %) was just above the non-financial business economy average. Average personnel costs in 2006 were EUR 27.3 thousand per employee in the EU-27's recycling sector, while apparent labour productivity was EUR 53.9 thousand per person employed. This resulted in a wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio of 197.6 % in 2006, well above the non-financial business economy average (151.1 %). In 2006, the vast majority of Member States recorded a higher wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio in the recycling sector than in the non-financial business economy as a whole, the exceptions being Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland (2005). The highest[2] wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio in the recycling sector was recorded in Bulgaria where it reached an exceptional 1 180.7 %, whereas Denmark was the only Member State to record a wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio in the recycling sector that was below 100 %.

Data sources and availability

The main part of the analysis in this article is derived from structural business statistics (SBS), including core, business statistics which are disseminated regularly, as well as information compiled on a multi-yearly basis, and the latest results from development projects.

Other data sources include the Eurostat waste statistics.


In November 2008 a new Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on waste (Directive 2008/98) was adopted, replacing the 30 year old existing waste Directive as well as Directives on hazardous waste and waste oils. The new Directive sets recycling targets to be achieved by 2020, establishes a clear hierarchy of waste management options, and clarifies a number of important definitions, such as recycling, recovery and waste itself.

Further Eurostat information


Main tables


Dedicated section

Other Information

See also


  1. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, 2005; Ireland, Greece, Malta and the Netherlands, not available.
  2. Ireland, the Netherlands and Poland, 2005; Greece and Malta, not available.