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The European Week for Waste Reduction : 5 charts to help understand this issue in Europe


The European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR), devoted to preventing waste, will be held from 21 to 29 November. On this occasion, open_resource is providing five charts to help understand the extent of our waste, its trends, and prospects for waste recovery and reduction.

Created in France in 2006 and expanded on a European scale in 2009, EWWR focuses every year on making people aware of the need to implement sustainable resource and waste management solutions. Individuals, associations, businesses and local authorities are invited to share their solutions and initiatives illustrating the so-called “3Rs”: Reducing waste, Reusing products, and Recycling materials.
Thus, waste reduction, along with recycling and recovery, is included in the overall objective of increasing the efficient use of resources and shifting to a circular economy. With a focus on household waste, open_resource uses five charts to explain this issue on a European scale.

1. What percentage of overall waste in Europe does household waste account for ?

This first chart shows the breakdown of waste production by activity in the European Union. Household waste accounts for nearly one tenth (8.5%) of the waste produced, which is a significant portion. Of a total volume estimated in 2012 at 2.5 billion tonnes, the demolition and construction sector and the extractive and manufacturing industries appear to be the chief waste-generating activities.

2. Has the volume of waste produced by households increased or decreased ?

Between 2004 and 2012, overall waste production by households remained stable.
Waste-generating economic activities followed different trends over the same period. For example, although the waste produced by the manufacturing industry fell by 26% during the same period, the amount of waste generated by the construction sector rose rapidly (+45 %).

3. What is the breakdown of household waste production in Europe ?

On average, the European Union produced 481 kg of household waste or equivalent per capita in 2013. This amount varies considerably from one country to another – from 747 kg per capita in Denmark to 272 kg per capita in Romania! These variations may be explained by consumption trends and economic activity in the different countries, but also by the efficiency of collection methods ; only the waste collected is measured.
In the vast majority of countries, the amount of waste remained stable between 2003 and 2013, with the exception of some countries that experienced a major reduction, such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain and Bulgaria.

4. What does household waste consist of ? In France, for example

According to data from the Agency for the Environment and Energy Control (ADEME) dating back to 2007, there was little change in the overall composition of household waste between 1993 and 2007 in France. French rubbish bins contain mainly putrescible waste (32.2%), paper/cardboard (21.5%), glass (12.7%), plastics (11.2%) and textiles (10.6 %, including healthcare textiles).

5. How is this waste treated today in Europe ?

Most household waste can be recycled to limit the impact on the environment and produce secondary raw materials. In 2013, of 481 kg of waste produced on average per capita, 470 kg were treated, according to the following breakdown : 31% was disposed of in landfills, 28% was recycled, 26% was incinerated and 15% was composted. Eurostat distinguishes amongst the different treatment methods : recycling, incineration, composting and landfill disposal. However, the data studied are not sufficient to determine the portion of energy recovery from incineration. The landfill disposal rate in the European Union fell from 64% in 1995 to 31% in 2013, proof of significant progress in terms of waste recovery. “The proportion of municipal waste recycled or composted in the European Union rose steadily during the period considered, rising from 18% in 1995 to 43% in 2013”, reports Eurostat. Yet in some countries, the recycling rate is still far from the objective of 50% set by Europe for household waste.

A few links to learn more !

These charts were prepared from data distributed by the European statistics agency Eurostat. All the statistics relating to waste can be found at this address and at this one.

To learn all the details about the European Week for Waste Reduction and all the actions carried out in Europe, visit the event’s official website by clicking here.

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