Data recently published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that recycling rates throughout the majority of countries are rising while less waste is being sent to landfill sites.
By compiling municipal waste statistics from 2004 to 2014, including all UE states plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey, the report found that 27 out pf 32 countries reduced the size of their landfills.
The overall use of landfills fell from 48 per cent in 2004 to 34 per cent in 2014. In eight countries, including the likes of Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland, almost no waste went to landfill sites.
Overall countries achieved an overall recycling rate of 33 per cent in 2014, compared to 23 per cent in 2004.
Total municipal waste generation in the 32 member countries declined by 3 per cent and average generation per person dropped by seven per cent from 2004-2014.
In the UK, municipal waste generated per person declined from 602kg in 2004 to 482kg in 2014, while municipal waste recycling nearly doubled from 23 per cent from 2004 to 44 per cent in 2014.
These figures put the UK amongst the countries with the highest increase in recycling rates alongside Poland, Italy, and the Czech Republic.
Across some countries (16) there has been an increase in municipal waste generation per person and a decrease in others (19).
Despite this however, there are several “flagging” countries that still need to ramp up their efforts if the EU’s 50 per cent recycling target is to be achieved — although it does not mean that progress is not being achieved.
Additionally, the data indicators could be weak in some countries as they have different definitions of what constitutes municipal waste or the make-up of recycled material.
For example, some countries might consider only waste from commercial activities or offices while others consider waste from households and the community.
The EEA admit that improvements in data would harmonise reporting and assist the effectiveness of policy issues.
Recently the European Commission has proposed to amend the Waste Framework Directive, which will include a new target for recycling municipal waste by 65 per cent by 2030.
This has been welcomed by the EEA.