Eurostats expose slow progress to cut municipal waste

The latest EU Municipal Waste generation stats have been released by EuroStat. Ireland does not impress. In Ireland, we are still producing more Municipal waste per head of population than we were before the Celtic tiger boom.

We are  well above the EU average of 481 kg/capita throwing away on average 586 kg/capita of Municipal Waste with just 6% being composted and 34% being recycled. These fall far short of our aspirations.

So how are we doing in comparison to our EU neighbours?

Well, not too bad but could be better. The lowest municipal waste generated per person is in Romania  (<300 kg/capita) and the highest in Denmark. Ireland comes in the upper half but the amount of municipal waste generated varies significantly across the EU Member States. Denmark (747 kg per person) had the highest amount of municipal waste generated in 2013, and Ireland is grouped in the next highest tier with Austria, Malta, France, the Netherlands and Greece with values between 500 and 600 kg per person.

Recycling activity?

The European picture is also varied here with Germany being a star performer. Almost two-thirds of municipal waste is  recycled or composted in Germany. The treatment methods differ substantially between the Member States, with  a third or more of municipal waste being recycled in Slovenia (55%), Germany (47%), Belgium and Ireland both  have 34%  and Sweden  has a 33% rate.

Composting was most common in Austria (35%), followed by the Netherlands (26%), Belgium (21%) and Luxembourg (20%). Ireland has a long way to reach these rates with just 6% being composted. 

Incineration hot spots.

Half or more of the municipal waste treated in 2013 was incinerated in Estonia (64%), Denmark (54%) and Sweden (50%), while the highest shares of municipal waste landfilled were recorded in Romania (97%), Malta (88%), Croatia (85%), Latvia (83%) and Greece (81%).

Who are the best recyclers?

EU Municipal Waste stats 2013

Recycling and composting accounted in 2013 for nearly two-thirds (65%) of waste treatment in Germany and for more than half in Slovenia (61%), Austria (59%) and Belgium (55%).


These figures confirm a worrying trend emerging. We note that recycling continues to struggle to make progress. Composting and recycling barely grew from 2012 to 2013.

And in that same period landfilling has dropped 2% but this waste has not appeared under recycling gains. It has obviously gone to increase the tonnage  transferred to incineration.  Moving landfill waste to incineration is simply another disposal method and does not achieve any Zero Waste outcomes. So we must be very clear that recycling , reworking, re-use activities must benefit from landfill avoidance measures. Incinerating the landfill bound waste is no real gain overall as it creates an even bigger landfill disposal issue.

Room to improve.

There is a huge opportunity for improvement especially in the recycling, composting and food waste treatment areas so let’s take it seriously and enforce the EU directives.  For example, we still have areas in Ireland where there is no separated foodwaste collection service even through it is no longer legal to co-mingle food with landfill bound waste.

It’s time to get serious about improving our performance.