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According to the EurActiv Network Europeans dump the bulk of their rubbish in landfills and many EU countries appear to be falling well short of 2020 targets for recycling municipal waste, new data from the EU statistical agency show.

Eurostat figures show that the 10 countries that have joined the Union since 2004 send the vast majority of their waste to landfills. But the data also shows that older member countries – including Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain – dump more than half their rubbish.

Europeans generate on average more than 500 kilograms of waste per year, some 300 kilograms of which is food and plant rubbish, according to EU figures.

“Proper waste management is vital for our environment, but it also makes economic sense; waste is a valuable resource if it is well managed,” Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said in a statement emailed to EurActiv.

“Our main piece of European legislation on waste – the Waste Framework Directive – prohibits uncontrolled disposal of waste and sets a clear waste management hierarchy, obliging member states to promote waste prevention, re-use and recycling over landfilling and incineration,” he said.The statistics indicate that the EU has a long way to go to meet targets set by the 2008 Waste Framework Directive, which calls for recycling of at least 50% of household waste by 2020. The legislation calls for a European “recycling society” that apparently hasn’t yet reached all corners of the Union.

The EU’s overall recycling rate stood at 25%, while Germany (45%), Belgium (40%) and Slovenia (39%) are closest to meeting the goals.

Despite recent calls by the European Parliament to reduce food waste and the amount of organic material going into dumps, just 15% of Europe’s organic material is composted, the Eurostat figures show.

The figures, released on 27 March, are based on 2010 numbers – the latest available.


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