Logo : R4R Regions For Recycling

Improving evidences of recycling rates across EU Member States

The European Environmental Agency (EEA) and EUROSTAT both released in March reports concerning municipal waste management and recycling rates across European countries. These reports show an improvement of recycling performances in Europe, though some countries are still far behind the best performers and might have difficulties to achieve the objective set by the EU Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC). The Directive sets a target of at least a 50% recycling for household waste, to be reached by 2020.

 Image James Hatfield

The picture provided by the two agencies, compared to ten years ago, highlights that the quantity of waste sent to landfill has decreased while the amount of waste incinerated, composted and recycled has increased. It has to be noted that the two different agencies came up with slightly different data sets as they used different methodologies and different years of reference (2010 for EEA and 2011 for EUROSTAT).

However, when looking at countries separately, the studies illustrate great disparities across European countries. In a rather short time, some countries have efficiently promoted a culture of recycling, with infrastructure, incentives and public awareness campaigns. For example the highest recycling rates can be found in Austria (63 % EEA), followed by Germany (62 %), Belgium (58 %) and the Netherlands (51 %).  But others are still lagging behind, wasting huge amount of resources and damaging the environment. For example the highest landfilling rates can be found in some of the Central and Eastern European countries, in particular in Romania (99% EUROSTAT), Bulgaria (94%) and Latvia (88%), as well as in the Southern Mediterranean countries like Malta (92%), Greece (82%) and Cyprus (80%). In this regard the European Commission plans to organise additional seminars on municipal waste management in other Member States to improve their waste management performance.

Even within a country at regional or local level there are extreme cases of successful and unsuccessful practices of municipal waste management and substantial variation across recycling rates. For example EEA states that in 2010 in Italy the recycling rates in Veneto region amounts to 63% of its generated municipal waste whereas in Sicily region a total of 93% was landfilled. This example points out that regional and local policies have a major influence on municipal waste recycling rates. Although EU targets and national targets are the overall drivers of better municipal waste management, regional and local instruments are crucial for achieving positive results. It also implies that regions with high recycling rates could serve as best practice models and become knowledge sharing platforms for other regions across Europe. The R4R project is presently contributing to create an exchange platform to optimise data collection and benchmarking for recycling performances, and to link them with effective legal, economic, educational and technical waste management tools at regional and local level. Some of the results of the project will be exhibited and discussed at an international conference on 15 May in Odense (Denmark).


Intereg IVC European Union
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