Here’s how much waste people in the EU produced in 2020

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kayleigh Bateman, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • People in the EU generated an average of 505 kilogrammes of waste in 2020, up nearly 10% since 1995.
  • Denmark and Luxembourg created the most municipal rubbish.
  • Only seven member states produced less per person in 2020 than in 1995.
  • However, the share of waste reaching landfill sites fell rapidly and recycling almost tripled.

Household waste weighing more than a camel or mini caravan? That was the average amount each person in the EU generated in 2020, according to Eurostat.

At 505kg per person, people produced 4kg more municipal waste than in 2019 and 38kg more than in 1995. The average adult camel or mini caravan, meanwhile, is about 500kg.

Eurostat defines municipal waste as anything collected by local authorities. This means it mainly comes from households, but also includes rubbish from shops, offices and public institutions.

The EU generated 225.7 million tonnes of it in 2020, an increase of 1% from 2019 and a 14% jump compared with 1995, the Eurostat figures show.

Most EU countries are producing more waste than in 1995.
Most EU countries are producing more waste than in 1995. Image: Eurostat

Which EU countries produced the most waste?

Denmark and Luxembourg were the biggest generators of municipal waste in 2020, with 845kg and 790kg per person, respectively. Close behind were Malta with 643kg and Germany with 632kg.

The lowest volumes came from Romania, with 287kg per person, followed by Poland with 346kg and Hungary on 364kg.

Most EU countries are producing more waste than in 1995.
Image: Eurostat

Only seven EU member states created less municipal waste per person in 2020 than in 1995: Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

At the other end of the scale, Croatia generated 90% more, Latvia an extra 80% and the Czech Republic recorded an almost 70% rise in waste volumes.

Less waste heading into landfills

While the region’s overall municipal waste levels may be increasing, the share of the EU’s waste going into landfill sites fell to 23% in 2020 from 61% in 1995, according to Eurostat.

This was partly as a result of new laws on reducing packaging and waste, and on cutting the level of biodegradable waste going to landfill sites, Eurostat says.

Much less EU waste is heading into landfill.
Much less EU waste is heading into landfill sites. Image: Eurostat

At the same time, recycling almost tripled in the EU, rising to 241kg per person in 2020 from 37kg in 1995. That means the total for the region rose to 107 million tonnes from 37 million tonnes.

Ending waste with a circular economy

Luxembourg may have been a big producer of waste in 2020, but it is looking to change things. It introduced a zero-waste strategy in 2019, which focuses on developing more responsible and sustainable waste management.

The strategy echoes the principles of the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan, aiming to eliminate municipal waste going into landfill sites by 2030.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about the circular economy?

The World Economic Forum has created a series of initiatives to promote circularity.

1. Scale360° Playbook was designed to build lasting ecosystems for the circular economy and help solutions scale.

Its unique hub-based approach – launched this September – is designed to prioritize circular innovation while fostering communities that allow innovators from around the world to share ideas and solutions. Emerging innovators from around the world can connect and work together ideas and solutions through the UpLink, the Forum’s open innovation platform.

Discover how the Scale360° Playbook can drive circular innovation in your community.

Connect to Learn More →

2. A new Circular Cars Initiative (CCI) embodies an ambition for a more circular automotive industry. It represents a coalition of more than 60 automakers, suppliers, research institutions, NGOs and international organizations committed to realizing this near-term ambition.

CCI has recently released a new series of circularity “roadmaps”, developed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), McKinsey & Co. and Accenture Strategy. These reports explain the specifics of this new circular transition.

Connect to Learn More

3. The World Economic Forum’s Accelerating Digital Traceability for Sustainable Production initiative brings together manufacturers, suppliers, consumers and regulators to jointly establish solutions and provide a supporting ecosystem to increase supply chain visibility and accelerate sustainability and circularity across manufacturing and production sectors.

Connect to Learn More →

The World Economic Forum remains committed to helping businesses, governments, and people recognize and tackle the problems with the current approach to consumption and waste.

The Forum’s Circular Economy initiative brings together private, public, civil society and expert stakeholders to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in three key areas: advancing leadership commitment​, transforming material value chains​ and scaling innovation.

The project is part of the Forum’s Centre for Nature and Climate platform.

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