Brussels, Belgium – A report from the European Commission has scrutinized how EU member states recycle their waste, and their conclusions aren’t very optimistic.
The EU’s executive body has issued an “early warning” to 14 countries, half of the member states, who fare particularly badly and risk missing the 2020 target for recycling municipal waste. The EU set a 2020 recycling target of 50% of all total waste and, according to their preliminary findings, half of the member states may not reach that threshold in two years time. Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are among them.
The EU Landfill Directive also obliged member states to reduce landfilling of municipal biodegradable waste to a maximum of 35% by 2016 and 10% by 2035. Half of European countries have already reached the 2016 target, and the other half hasn’t.
Throughout the bloc, the worst recyclers are Malta, Romania, Greece and Cyprus, none of which has recycled more than 20% of their total waste. With a mere 7% recycling rate and 83% of its waste going to landfills, Malta is crowned the “dirtiest man of Europe” – far ahead of Romania (13% recycling rate), Greece and Cyprus (both 17%).
Central European countries, although far from producing the most waste throughout the bloc, aren’t doing too good either when it comes to recycling it. In 2016 – latest data available – Slovakia’s municipal waste recycling rate (including composting) stood at 23% and its landfilling rate was 65%.
The situation was slightly better in Hungary (35% of municipal waste recycled and landfilling rate of 51%) and Poland (respectively 44% and 36%), the latter thus standing out as “the best” of Europe’s worst recyclers.
And how about plastic? The average recycling rate of plastic waste stands at 42% in the European Union. Since 2005, it has increased by more than 18 percentage points, when it stood at 24%, and only decreased in one EU country, Estonia.
Hungary (31%) is the only Central European countries that stills stands below average. The Czech Republic (60%), which recently took action to limit the use of single-use plastic items, as well as Slovakia (52%) and Poland (47%) were all above, but remain far behind European champions like Lithuania (75%), Cyprus (64%) and Slovenia (62%). In October, the European Parliament voted in favor of a ban on a number of single-use plastic items, including straws, cutlery and plates, which is due to take effect by 2021.