Every European generates on average 474 kg municipal waste per year. In Germany it is even more, but at the same time more German waste is recycled. Progress on reaching common positions or conclusions with regard to the EU Commission’s circular economy package has been painfully slow.
Environment ministers meeting on 19th December in the EU Council will be informed on the matter but not decision-taking is on the agenda. It will be well into 2017 until European politicians finally turn these proposals into law even though the waste issue is a red-hot issue.
Every German produces 618 kg municipal waste annually. Within the European Union only the Danes throw away more. While municipal waste generated within Europe has decreased by 8 per cent since 2005, it has risen by 9 per cent in Germany.
At the same time Germany is frontrunner at recycling of municipal waste. 64 per cent of German municipal waste is recycled, much more than on EU average (44 per cent). In addition, Germany is on the bottom of the list when it comes to the amount of municipal waste per head still being burnt or landfilled: 224 kg in comparison to the EU average of 268 kg.
Yet, the EU Commission wants to set higher recycling targets: by 2030 all member states shall recycle 65 per cent of its municipal waste and 75 per cent of its packaging waste. In addition, a binding target to reduce landfilling to 10 per cent of the waste stream by 2030 is also in the planning.
And, crucially, only the waste entering the final recycling process shall in the future be defined as recycled. Instead of the currently reported 64 per cent Germany’s recycling rate would then drop to between 40 and 50 per cent according to the German association for waste management. To reach the planned 65-per cent EU target, the German rate would have to increase between 0.9 to 1.6 percentage points annually until 2030 according to own calculations. In the past decade Germany only managed 0.3 percentage points annually based on the current definition of recycling.
Germany as a significant waste producer big into recycling
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Germany European Champion in Recycling
in percent of all generated municipal waste 2014
Ireland, Greece: 2013; To embed this graphic for free onto your website please contact firstname.lastname@example.org; Source: Eurostat, own calculations
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