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Landfill still the answer for most, despite EU recycling target
Figures released by the European statistical agency, Eurostat, show that while recycling and composting of waste grew in the last decade across Europe, most countries still dump the bulk of their rubbish despite their obligations to recycle half of it by 2020. Some 37% of the average 503 kg of waste each European country generates ends up in landfills, 25% is recycled and 15% is composted. Some 23% is burned - typically for energy.
The figures show an enormous gulf between a handful of countries - led by Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium Austria and Denmark - that have largely phased out landfilling, while the bulk of other EU nations continue to dump most of their waste. Romania, Bulgaria and Malta sent nearly all their municipal waste in landfills in 2011.
The EU's 2008 Waste Framework Directive requires the recycling of at least 50% of household waste by 2020. The legislation calls for a European 'recycling society' that apparently hasn't yet reached all corners of the Union.
Eurostat data showed a shift away from landfill disposal since 2001, although the amount of waste generated per household grew from 486 kg in 2001. In that year, 56% of waste went into landfills, 17% was incinerated, 17% was recycled and 10% was composted.
A recent study by Friends of the Earth Europe (which we reported in Cleanzine http://thecleanzine.com/pages/5115/eu_landfills_or_incinerates_60_of_its_municipal_waste_must_do_better_says_foe/ if you'd like to recap) called for tighter regulation on landfill use and incineration and higher recycling goals. It estimated that Europe recycles only 25% of its municipal waste and said that some 60% of the EU's municipal waste ends up in landfills or incinerators, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions as well as an increasingly unsightly landscape. Further, it pointed out that Europeans are particularly wasteful with used textiles, with 75% of the 5.8 million tonnes discarded every year going to dumps or incineration.
Also last month, the European Court of Auditors criticised the EU's waste management infrastructure, which has received €10.8 billion in structural funding since 2000, for its "limited" effectiveness.
Refuse can contain important raw materials and resources, and the EU has introduced directives to enforce common waste management standards and targets. It has also co-financed waste management infrastructures in specific regions.
However, the auditors' report said: "The effectiveness of EU funding for municipal waste management infrastructures was limited due to the poor implementation of supporting measures."
Refuse was deposited in landfill sites "without adequate treatment," the report found, and "insufficient financial amounts" were put aside for the closing of landfill sites, and their after-care costs.
"Europeans are consuming more, and producing more waste," said Ovidiu Ispir, the report's author. "The EU Waste Directive requires that member states treat and dispose of waste without risk to water, air and soil and without causing noise or odour problems."
The Eurostat figures for 2011 show that:
- The member states with the highest share of landfilled municipal waste were Romania (99%), Bulgaria (94%), Malta (92%), Latvia and Lithuania (both 88%).
- The highest shares of incinerated waste were in Denmark (54%), Sweden (51%), Belgium (42%), Luxembourg and the Netherlands (both 38%), Germany (37%), France and Austria (both 35%).
- Recycling was most common in Germany (45% of waste), Ireland (37%), Belgium (36%), Slovenia (34%), Sweden (33%), the Netherlands (32%) and Denmark (31%).
- The highest composting rates for municipal waste were Austria (34%), the Netherlands (28%), Belgium and Luxembourg (both 20%), Spain and France (both 18%).
- Recycling and composting of municipal waste together accounted for more than 50% of waste treated in Germany (63%), Austria (62%), the Netherlands (61%) and Belgium (57%).
Photo: courtesy of Bluemark Consultants
7th March 2013