Denmark tops EU ‘rubbish’ league

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The volume of municipal waste generated by Europeans varied a lot in 2008 – from 306 kg in the Czech Republic to 802 kg in Denmark – but the overall trend is clearly upwards, reveals a report by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

According to new statistics, EU citizens generated an average of 524kg of municipal waste per person in 2008: two kilos more than the previous year.

A comparison of the 2007 figures and 2008 figures shows that municipal waste generation was up in 17 member states and down in ten. The biggest increase occurred in Malta, where waste generation per person increased by 46kg. The German average also grew by 17 kg.

Recycling up by 1%

As for the amount of waste recycled or converted into compost, the overall EU figure went up by 1% in 2008 and landfill decreased by 2%. The average volume of waste incinerated remained the same.

However, the individual recycling and landfill performances of the 27 EU countries varied widely.

In Estonia, for example, the rate of recycling decreased by 10%, while landfill increased by 11%. The same shift occurred in Latvia at 7% for both.

Ireland, which in 2007 was second only to Denmark as the EU country generating the most waste per person, decreased its waste generation by 53kg per person in 2008. However, with 733kg of waste per citizen, Ireland still ranks third after Denmark and Cyprus, which generated 802kg and 770kg of waste in 2008 respectively.

As for the countries where recycling is on the rise, Austria increased its total recycling and composting rate from 59% to 69%, while it decreased its landfill by 10%. Luxembourg also increased its recycling by 17%.

Bulgaria still uses landfill for 100% of its waste and Romania 99%. Bulgaria, for example, is packaging its waste in bales while it waits for treatment facilities to be built.

Municipal waste comprises rubbish collected from household and waste from small businesses and offices. Agricultural and industrial waste is excluded.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) predicts 25% growth in the amount of waste produced by cities between 2005 and 2020, "driven by several factors, such as economic activity, demographic changes, technological innovations, lifestyle and patterns of production and consumption". 

The average European's share is expected to soar to 680kg, "primarily due to an assumed sustained growth in private final consumption and a continuation of current trends in consumption patterns" (EURACTIV 07/02/08).

The EEA also warns that unsustainable consumption and production patterns "in the long term may outweigh the improvements taking place in the waste management sector".

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