EEA publishes briefings on municipal waste reduction

03 May 2022

Article: 56/1712

On 26 April 2022, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a briefing, finding that the EU is not on track with its aim to halve the amount of municipal waste by 2030. Additionally, the EEA published a second briefing, which examined increasing amounts of municipal waste and improper waste management in Western Balkan countries. 

The EEA has analysed recent municipal waste trends in the EU in the light of achieving two key waste targets, those being the obligation for each EU member state to recycle at least 60% of municipal waste by 2030, and the EU goal of halving residual municipal waste that is landfilled or incinerated by 2030. 

The amount of residual municipal waste has remained relatively stable in the EU over the past five years, at about 113 million tonnes, because the recycling rates and the amount of waste generated have increased approximately with the same pace. In 2020, about 48% of municipal waste in the EU was recycled. 

EEA analysis finds that if more municipal waste keeps getting generated, the EU would have to recycle about 72% of this to meet the target of halving the amount of non-recycled municipal waste by 2030. Alternatively, the target could be achieved by reducing the amount of waste generated by around one-third and achieving the 60% recycling rate in all EU member states. 

Reaching the 72% recycling rate would require significant improvement in waste collection systems and recycling infrastructure, as well as a widespread redesign of consumer products for easier recycling, the EEA briefing states. However, preventing waste generation in the first place would deliver the greatest benefits for the environment. This would require, for example, increasing the lifespan of consumer goods and ensuring strong support for product re-use. 

As part of the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission has recently made a package of proposals to make goods on the EU market more friendly to the environment, circular, and energy efficient, as well as a new strategy to make textiles more durable, repairable, reusable and recyclable. 

The second EEA briefing finds that most municipal waste in the Western Balkans is still sent to landfill and there is an urgent need to invest in separate collection systems and recycling infrastructure. Western Balkans' waste legislation and targets are increasingly following EU directives but data on waste generation and management remain largely insufficient. The EEA warns that, while there are many initiatives to improve data quality, illegal, substandard and informal activities hinder the proper funding and functioning of the legal infrastructure and its improvement. Extended producer responsibility schemes could provide additional funding for improving waste management in the region, if they are designed, governed and implemented well. 

Source: EEA, 26 April 2022