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Municipal waste separation in Europe


Even though households only generate around 10 % of the total waste in the EU (Eurostat, 2016a and 2016b), household waste is still considered to be a very important topic and is currently at the forefront of EU policies, directives and regulations, including:

  • Landfill Directive's (EC, 1999) - landfill diversion targets for biodegradable municipal waste
  • The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive’s (EC, 1994) - recycling targets
  • The Waste Framework Directive’s (EC, 2008) - targets for recycling and preparation for reuse (more precisely; this target applies to specific types of household and similar waste).

All of these directives set targets and policies at EU level, including minimum requirements for managing certain waste types. Following the 3 golden rules; Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, waste prevention has the potential to reduce its environmental impact not only during the consumption and waste phases, but also throughout the whole life cycle of the products consumed.

476 kg per EU-inhabitant. Is it a little or a lot?

Based on the Eurostat, each EU citizen generated 475kg of waste, on average, in 2015 - meaning that every one of us generated about 1.3 kg of waste per day. Is that a little or a lot? Is there any potential to reduce or change the manner of our consumption and influence the amount of waste generated?

If we look back, then we can see that roughly the same amount was generated in the year 1995, so the trend seems to have remained fairly constant. However, if we look at different member countries (specifically 4 of the 8 FCC Environment countries) then we can see big differences; the lowest amount of waste generated per capita can be found in Romania (247 kg), Serbia (259 kg), Poland (286 kg) and Czech Republic (316 kg).

At the other end of the list we see Denmark (789 kg), Switzerland (725 kg) and Cyprus (638 kg). In reality, the figures are not easily comparable from country to country as each uses different methods of calculating waste generation (as well as different definitions within individual countries) and the reliability of data produced can be questionable, especially in CEE. Therefore, the EU circular economy has a clear target - the harmonization of waste generation, counting and calculation of recycling targets.

Waste generated per capita 1995/2015

 waste generated per capita 1995/2015 in EU countries; Eurostat

Base for data: Eurostat

This is only one side of the coin, while the other side demonstrates what actually happens to the municipal waste which has been generated. This depends on the level of the current waste management system in each country, also on the actual "contents of our bins".

What really goes into our bins?

Acquiring such information isn't easy and we can only work with examples from some of the countries; since this type of information doesn't yet exist on any structured datasheet, EU-wide.

Let’s look at Czech Republic and Poland as examples;

In 2014, 26,946,718 tons of waste were generated in the Czech Republic. Municipal waste contributed about 12% of the total amount (3,337,336 tons) and of this waste; 23% was recycled and 15% was separated into fractions such as paper, plastics etc.

In Poland, municipal waste made up 8% of the total waste generated (10,863,000 tons), including 23 % of recyclables.

Czech waste bin

Czech waste bin structure  

Waste recycling; are the EU-targets achievable?

In 2015, the European Commission proposed new targets for municipal waste - with 60 % to be recycled and prepared for reuse (by 2025), rising to 65 % (by 2030). If we look at the following chart showing; the generation and treatment of municipal waste in the EU from 1995 - 2014, we have to ask whether achieving these goals is really possible.

Municipal waste generation and treatment 

Source: Eurostat

 Municipal waste treatment methods EU-28

Until now, the target for 2025 (only 8 years from now), has only been achieved by Slovenia (61%) and Germany (64%), with over 40% in 12 other countries and an EU-wide average of 44%. But let´s consider what changes will be necessary to reach these targets in countries such as Serbia, Slovakia, or Romania to reach the goal of 60%, as they are currently only hovering at around 0-16%. It's going to be a massive challenge and it's difficult to predict whether the target can become reality in such a time frame. Only the future will show if these measures can truly be achieved.

Waste recycling target status 2015 




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Why with us

  • International team of experts

    Our team of more than 4 416 employees in 8 countries of CEE signs responsible for the smooth operation of all our services.

  • Waste as a resource

    Thanks to modern waste treatment solutions we give 560 000 tons of secondary raw materials a second life annually.

  • Just in time

    Nearly 1.3 million containers, skips and bins of all sizes and  1 347 trucks or special vehicles ensure secure and efficient collection and transport of all waste for further treatment.

  • Experienced service provider

    8 countries, 1 379 municipalities and 4.9 mil residents served, 21 joint-ventures with municipalities, 51 400 industrial clients. This is our brief profile.

FCC Environment CEE Group in figures

1 347 trucks and special vehicles

Over 1 300 000 containers and bins

96 collection yards

18 transfer stations

31 sorting plants

11 RDF (alternative fuels treatment)

9 splitting plants

21 mechanical biological treatment plants and/or composting

27 landfills

1 waste-to-energy-plant for household and commercial waste

1 incineration facility for hazardous waste

4.9 mil residents served

4.1 mil t/a of waste processed

8 countries

51 400 industrial clients

Partner of 1 379 municipalities

21 joint-ventures with municipalities

more than 0.56mil t/a SRM handled

200 GWh/a generated by W2E plants and landfills cogeneration units

4 800 km of streets cleaned

644 hectares of green areas maintained 

Did you know?
FCC CEE Group has more than 10 years of experience in used clothes business
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300 to 400 kg of compost can be produced from 1 tonne of biodegradable waste
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Metals and glass are 100% recyclable
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In Europe, up to 90% of the green glass bottle is made of recycled glass
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More than 0,7 litres of base lube oil can be produced from 1,0 litre of used mineral oil and is being used for engine, transmission and hydraulic oils
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With the energy needed for productions of 1 drink can from bauxite, it is possible to produce 20 cans from recycled aluminium
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Recycling of 1 tonne of steel saves 1.100 kilograms of coal, and 55 kilograms of limestone
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Used paper can be recycled and used in fresh paper production up to 6 times
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Recycling 1 tonne of paper saves more than 2 tonnes of wood
Did you know?
1 tonne of refuse-derived fuel produced by FCC CEE Group 600 kilograms of heating oil or more than 800 kilograms of stone coal
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Recycling of plastics saves limited virgin raw materials (crude oil and natural gas) and reduces energy consumption by 80 to 90%