Future of the Environment

How much waste does Europe produce?

A dozer shoves garbagge containing plastic materials at a dumping ground.

Image: REUTERS/Petr Josek

Arwen Armbrecht
Writer and social media producer, Freelance
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Future of the Environment

The average amount of waste generated per person in the European Union was 475 kg in 2014. The good news is that nearly 100% of that waste was treated to ensure it has the least possible impact on the environment, and 44% of it was either recycled or composted.

Even better news: the latest data, release by Eurostat, shows that things are improving. The 2014 average is down a good 10% from the EU's peak in 2002, when the average citizen was generating 527 kg annually.

Image: Eurostat

Worrying amounts of Western waste

The national data on waste generated per person varies greatly. Western Europe lead the EU by a significant amount. The worst offender was Denmark, whose average citizen generated just under 800 kg of waste in 2014. Cyprus, Germany and Luxembourg were next, all producing over 600 kg of waste per person. Malta, Ireland (based on 2013 data), Austria, the Netherlands, France and Greece all produced above-average amounts of waste, between 500 kg and 600 kg per person.

On the opposite end, many Eastern European nations were significantly below average. Romania (based on 2013 data), Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all produced less than 300 kg of waste per citizen.

The rise of recycling

As well as producing less waste, Europeans are also getting better at recycling the waste they do produce. In 1995, only 17% of waste was recycled, but by 2014, that figure was up to 44%. The leaders in recycling are Slovenia and Germany, where nearly half of all municipal waste is recycled.

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Related topics:
Future of the EnvironmentCities and Urbanization
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