Generation of municipal waste per capita has declined slightly from 2004 to 2012, but it is clearly better managed now than ten years ago.
This SOER 2015 cross-country comparison focuses on municipal solid waste (referred to as municipal waste). Although municipal waste only represents around 10% of total waste, it is very visible and has a diverse composition linked to consumption patterns. Countries that have developed efficient municipal-waste management systems generally perform better in overall waste management.
Multiple waste policies and targets set at European level include minimum requirements for managing certain waste types. The most relevant targets for municipal waste are the Landfill Directive's landfill-diversion targets for biodegradable municipal waste; the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive's recycling targets; and the Waste Framework Directive's recycling target for household and similar wastes. Total municipal waste generation in the EEA countries declined by 1% in absolute terms and by 4% per capita from 2004 to 2012. However, there has been no uniform trend across countries, with an increase in municipal waste generation per capita in 15 — and a decrease in 20 — out of 36 countries for which data are available.
In 2012, municipal waste generation per capita was highest in Switzerland (694 kg/capita), Denmark (668 kg/capita) and Cyprus (663 kg/capita), and lowest in Romania (271 kg/capita) and Albania (262 kg/capita). This reflects differences in data, economic wealth between countries (wealthier countries usually generate more municipal waste per capita), and the recent economic downturn.
The Waste Framework Directive sets a target for 50% of municipal waste (more precisely the target applies to specific types of household and similar wastes) to be recycled by 2020 in individual countries (except Turkey and Switzerland). One of the success stories of environmental policy in Europe so far is the increase in the rates of municipal waste recycling (covering material recycling, composting and digestion of bio-wastes). Countries achieved an average recycling rate of 29% in 2012, compared to 22% in 2004. Although this reflected only very modest improvements in recycling of bio-waste.