European Union countries recycled or composted 46 per cent of their household waste on average in 2015, marking a slight increase on the 44 per cent rate recorded in 2014, according to the latest EU statistics.
Figures released yesterday by the EU’s Eurostat service show that on average 29 per cent of member states’ municipal waste was recycled and 17 per cent was composted in 2015.
A further 28 per cent of household waste was sent to landfill, while 26 per cent was incinerated for energy recovery.
However, the encouraging trend was at least partly offset by news the amount of waste generated per person in the EU went up for the first time in nearly a decade, amounting to 477kg in 2015 compared to the 474kg recorded the previous year.
Nevertheless, the 2015 figure is still down nine per cent from the peak weight of 527kg of waste produced by each European resident in 2002, the statistics show.
Municipal waste includes that generated by households and similar material from small businesses and public institutions collected by local councils, while recycling covers material recycling, composting, and anaerobic digestion.
The statistics also show the amount of waste generated per person varies significantly across EU member states, with the lowest levels of waste produced by residents in Poland at under 300kg, followed by the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
At the other end of the scale, Danes generated 789kg of waste on average in 2015, while Germans, Cypriots and Maltese also produced in excess of 600kg per person.
Across member states, recycling and composting together accounted for more than two-thirds of waste treatment in Germany at 68 per cent, and accounted for more than half of the waste stream in Austria, Slovenia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
But while the EU’s overall recycling and composting rate has steadily increased over time from just 17 per cent in 1995, concerns have been raised about the recent performance of some member states, including the UK.
The UK’s national recycling rate, which has plateaued in recent years at around 44 per cent, fell by a small margin in 2015.
The latest statistics follow a vote last week by members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee backing the inclusion of higher recycling targets in the EU’s proposed Circular Economy package of legislation.
Environment MEPs voted in favour of boosting the EU’s municipal waste recycling target from 65 per cent to 70 per cent by 2030, as well as capping the amount of waste sent to landfill at five per cent over the same period, rather than the previous 10 per cent target.
Moreover, the MEPs backed a non-binding target to cut food waste by 50 per cent across the EU over the next 15 years, up from the original targets of a 30 per cent cut which was included in the Commission’s original Circular Economy proposals.