18 August 2020 by Joshua Doherty

UK ranks 11th in EU recycling table

Official statistics published by the European Commission show that the UK remained the 11th highest recycler in the EU in 2018, with a rate of 43.86%.  

The figures – published in July and covering the 2018 calendar year – show this is to be below the EU-average of 47.2% However the annual statistics show that the UK landfills significantly less than the EU on average and sends more for energy recovery, as highlighted in the table below. 

The figures are compiled annually by Eurostat for the Commission and are based on submissions by member states, as well as other nations.  Differences remain in the precise way member states calculate their figures and reaching a common methodology is a project currently underway for the Commission.


Germany remained the best performing nation for recycling and composting rates, recording a rate of 67.4%.  

Slovenia was the next highest on  59%, while Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria all recorded above 55%. Montenegro was the lowest performing nation to submit data, with a 5% rate.  

France, Finland, Spain and Poland all recorded lower rates than the UK. Greece and Ireland did not submit data.  

Per capita

While the UK ranked third behind Germany and France in terms of waste generated, it was 17th in terms of waste generated per capita, dropping two places from last year’s table. The UK recorded a rate of 463 kg per person per year, dropping from 481 in 2005.

Denmark recorded the highest waste per capita at 814kg, Malta was in second place with 640. The lowest was Romania, which record 214, down from 672 in 2005.

According to Eurostat, the EU statistics body, “the variations reflect differences in consumption patterns and economic wealth, but also depend on how municipal waste is collected and managed”.

Note: Countries are ranked in increasing order by municipal waste generation in 2018. EU, DE, ES, FR, CY and LU are estimated. IE, EL, CY, IS  use 2017 data instead of 2018. Source: Eurostat

Energy from Waste

When looking at energy recovery, Belgium and the the Netherlands sent about 43% of its waste in 2018 for energy recovery, while Denmark sent 50% and Sweden sent the most at 54%.

Spain remained the worst performing country with regard to landfill, sending 51% of its waste to landfill.

Eurostat noted that the long term trend has been towards a reduction of waste to landfill – which it says has been driven by the EU’s Landfill Directive which sets targets for reducing the amount of waste that is disposed of in landfill. This has prompted an increase in the amount of waste recycled, composted and sent to energy from waste facilities.

A rise in recycling rates, according to Eurostat, can “partly be attributed to the implementation of European legislation”, for instance Directive 62/1994 on packaging and packaging waste.

“By 2001, Member States had to recover a minimum of 50 % of all packaging put on the market. With the revised recovery target of 60 % to be achieved by 31 December 2008, there was a further rise in the amount of packaging waste collected separately,” the body said.

A comparison of the top five countries by waste generated


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