October 22nd, 2013

Waste management: who is really leading the EU?

2 minute read

by Roy Hathaway


There has been much shaking of heads lately over the perceived poor performance of the new EU member states of eastern and southern Europe – and some of the not so new ones – so far as recycling and landfill diversion are concerned. “Look at country X,” we all say (me included), “still landfilling over 95% of its waste; they will never get anywhere near the 50% recycling target by 2020, not a chance.”

This may be right, although the Commission is gamely refusing to throw in the towel, pointing out that the rapid progress made by countries such as the UK in the last ten years was not widely predicted at the outset, and asking: why can’t the new Member States do the same in the next 7 years or so? According to these Commission optimists, all they need is a decent rate of landfill tax, Pay As You Throw, and some EU funded recycling and recovery infrastructure…

There are some grounds for optimism. Browsing Eurostat data recently, as you do, I noticed that the top ten countries in terms of the biggest annual increases in recycling  in the period 2006-10 were – wait for it – Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Italy, UK, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Latvia, Greece and Slovakia, in that order. Increases of 5% per year in the best cases. Who knew?

Europe Waste Capita League

Weight watchers: Eurostat data shows Eastern European countries like Poland produce the least waste per capita.


Yes I know its all to do with GDP, and standards of living, but even so, perhaps we should stop criticising these countries, and see if we can learn something from them?


Roy Hathaway


RH picture


Like other Isonomia authors, Roy writes in a personal capacity. The views above do not necessarily reflect those of the Environmental Services Association.


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