Waste Management & Recycling Solutions

Europe’s Reforming Waste Management: from Landfill to Recycling

The advancement in technology and industrialization in Europe has resulted in a wealthy society. But it is said that there are two sides to every coin. The downside of this tremendous growth is the degradation of the environment and the generation of tonnes and tonnes of dump each year that goes to landfills. The most recent statistics from the Eurostat Statistics states that European Union alone generates 3 Billion tonnes of solid waste each year, which amount to 6 tonnes of waste per person per year. A large part of this waste is hazardous.

Management of this waste with harming the environmental balance is one of the biggest challenges that we are facing today. Most of the rubbish we throw is either burnt in the incinerators or is dumped in the landfill sites. These methods though solve the immediate problem of dealing with the waste but damage the environment. Apart from occupying a very large valuable land space, the landfills also cause water, air and soil pollution through the discharge of harmful gases and chemicals. Humans, animals and plants are all equally harmed by this.

European Union’s Stand on Landfill and Recycling

According to the estimates of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and development (OECD), we would be producing 45 % more rubbish by 2020 than what was generated in 1995. Keeping in view the various environmental predictions, the European Union’s Environment action plan has considered waste collection and management as one of the top priorities.

With an objective to bring down the amount of waste produced every year through a whole new and modern approach of sustainable use of resources and prevention of waste. For the same purpose, the EU has based its waste management policies on the following points:

  • Waste Reduction at Source

Better manufacturing techniques and creating awareness among the public to use green products are the primary focus for waste reduction. The use of green products will automatically bring a significant reduction in the amount of industrial waste produced every year.


  • Reuse and Recycle

For the waste that cannot be prevented, the next step is to reuse and recycle. Most of the products like electronic waste, expired vehicles, waste packaging material, metal products etc. can be recycled. Many of the EU countries have been successful in recycling a major part of their waste.


  • Waste Disposal through Landfills and Incineration

The focus is to dispose the waste that cannot be reused or recycled through safe incineration while disposing the waste in landfill needs to be seen as the last alternative. Since both of these methods cause environmental pollution, the rules for stringent monitoring are placed to make sure that only the permissible waste is being dumped in the landfill or incinerated.


  • Bans on Landfills and Incinerators

The European Union has banned certain kinds of rubbish such as used tyres from being dumped into the landfill sites. The incinerators are also given a restriction on the limit of emission in order to bring the emission of harmful gases like methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide to a minimum level.

Landfill Tax: A Success

Partially driven by the EU directive, in 1996, the landfill tax was first introduced by Lord Deben. The tax policy has been a success in the past few years. The recycling rates in UK have gone up from 7 percent in 1996 to 43 percent presently.

The landfill tax has proved to be a lead foot to bring down the amount of waste going into the landfills. This diversion from the landfills has increased the percentage of the waste recycled or incinerated. More than twenty countries have levied landfill tax on the waste dumped into the landfill sites. It not only helped the nation to attain better waste management system but also acted as an additional source of revenue. This revenue is usually used for various environmental initiatives such as cleaning of contaminated sites. In some countries, a part of the revenue is contributed to the state and regional budget.

Subsequently, most of the countries are planning to increase the tax level for the waste going into the landfill sites. The tax is now soon going to be set to 80 Euro per tonne in contrast to the very low initial landfill tax amount 15 years back. However, the revenues from the landfill tax are slowly decreasing as the waste is now diverted to the better disposal techniques.

Reforming Ways: Waste Recycling

Another positive side-effect of the landfill tax in Europe is the increased popularity of the emerging green industry. It includes recycling, waste treatment, waste collection and management and other environmentally friendly activities. Waste recycling is one of the main reasons for the reduced quantity of solid waste dumped into the landfills.

According to the European Directives, all the European Union member countries are required to bring their recycling rates to 50% by the year 2020. Some of the countries have encouraged the practice of recycling with appropriate awareness campaigns and infrastructure. UK, Austria and Netherland have achieved better results than other countries in this respect. The progressive recycling rates are a result of stringent waste management policies and regulations along with the improved infrastructure and services for solid waste collection, treatment, recycling and disposal.

However, most of these countries still have a long way to go to achieve the target of 50% recycling rate. A recent report released by the European Environment Agency predicted that most of the countries will fail to achieve this target by 2020. Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Lithuania and Malta are a few of the worst scorers on the European Commission’s waste management norms so far.

The various awareness events are being conducted by the governments to improve the waste collection practices at the household and business level. People are encouraged to adopt the practice of reuse and recycle things used in their day-to-day life. The combined efforts of the government and its citizens can make 100% reuse and recycling a possibility. The landfills and the landfill tax will then be things from the past.

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