478 kilos of municipal waste per person in Latvia / Article

Latvia was only slightly less wasteful, generating 478 kg per person. But that figure is up sharply from the 2019 figure of 439kg and well ahead of the 264kg per person in 1995.

In total, the EU generated 225.7 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2020, an increase of 1% compared to 2019 (+1.8 million tonnes) and +14% compared to 1995 (+ 27.7 million tons).

For 2020, municipal waste generation totals vary widely, ranging from 282 kg per capita in Romania to 845 kg per capita in Denmark. The variations reflect differences in consumption patterns and economic wealth, but also depend on how municipal waste is collected and managed. There are differences between countries in the extent to which commercial, trade and administrative waste is collected and managed with household waste.

As of 2004, the methodologies have been finalized in most countries, so the time series of waste generation from 2004 onwards are more accurate and stable than those between 1995 and 2003.

Municipal waste generated in the EU

Photo: Eurostat

Compared to 1995, only seven Member States generated less municipal waste per person in 2020: Bulgaria (-36%), Hungary (-21%), Slovenia (-18%), Romania (-16% ), Spain (-10%), Belgium (-9%) and the Netherlands (-1%).

Variations between countries reflect differences in consumption patterns and economic wealth, as well as differences in the collection and management of municipal waste. Countries differ in the amount of commercial, trade and administrative waste collected and managed together with household waste.

As the latest figures are from 2020, it remains to be seen what impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on waste generation, although given the increased use of food and other packaging as epidemiological precautions, this seems likely to further increase the numbers.

67 million tonnes of municipal waste recycled in 2020

The amount of waste recycled remained stable in 2020. Material recycling fell to 67 million tonnes from 68 million tonnes in 2019, corresponding to 151 kg per person (as in 2019). Compared to 1995, this means that people in the EU recycled 44 million tonnes (97 kg per inhabitant) more than in 1995.

Composting is also a recycling operation. 40 million tonnes (90 kg per person) of waste were composted in 2020, i.e. almost three times more than in 1995 (14 million tonnes, i.e. 33 kg per person).

Although the EU is producing more waste, the total amount of municipal waste going to landfill has decreased. In 2020, total municipal waste sent to landfill fell from 121 million tonnes in 1995 to 52 million tonnes (-58%). This corresponds to an average annualized decline of 4%.

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Melissa C. Keyes