Latvia was only a little less wasteful, generating 478 kg per person. But that figure is steeply up on 2019's figure of 439 kg and way ahead of 1995's 264 kg per person.
In total, the EU generated 225.7 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2020, a 1% increase compared to 2019 (+1.8 million tonnes) and +14% compared to 1995 (+27.7 million tonnes).
For 2020, municipal waste generation totals vary considerably, ranging from 282 kg per capita in Romania to 845 kg per capita in Denmark. The variations reflect differences in consumption patterns and economic wealth, but also depend on how municipal waste is collected and managed. There are differences between countries regarding the degree to which waste from commerce, trade and administration is collected and managed together with waste from households.
From 2004 on, methodologies were finalised in most countries, so the waste generation time series of 2004 and later is more accurate and stable than that between 1995 and 2003.
Compared to 1995, only seven Member States generated less municipal waste per person in 2020: Bulgaria (-36%), Hungary (-21%), Slovenia (-18%), Romania (-16%), Spain (-10%), Belgium (-9%) and the Netherlands (-1%).
The variations across countries reflect differences in consumption patterns and economic wealth and also differences in the collection and management of municipal waste. Countries differ regarding how much waste from commerce, trade and administration is collected and managed together with the waste from households.
As the latest figures are from 2020, it remains to be see what impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on waste generation, though given the increased use of food and other packaging as epidemiological precautions, it seems likely to cause the figures to rise further.
67 million tonnes of municipal waste recycled in 2020
The amount of recycled waste remained stable in 2020. Recycling of materials fell to 67 million tonnes from 68 million tonnes in 2019, corresponding to 151 kg per person (same as in 2019). Compared to 1995, it means people in the EU recycled 44 million tonnes (97 kg per capita) more than in 1995.
Composting is also a recycling operation. 40 million tonnes (90 kg per person) of waste were composted in 2020, almost three times as much as in 1995 (14 million tonnes, or 33 kg per person).
In spite of the EU generating more waste, the total amount of municipal waste landfilled has diminished. In 2020, the total municipal waste landfilled fell from 121 million tonnes in 1995 to 52 million tonnes (-58%). This corresponds to an average annualized decline of 4%.