EU flags recycling targets at risk for several member states 

It is a sobering warning, highlighting that 18 countries are at risk of falling short on recycling targets for municipal and packaging waste in 2025. 

The European Commission has made urgent recommendations to boost recycling in the member states at risk of missing waste targets. Credit: Vector Image Plus via Shutterstock

The European Commission has identified Member States facing potential challenges in meeting recycling targets for municipal and packaging waste in 2025, as well as landfilling targets for 2035.  

While nine Member States, including Austria, Belgium, and Germany, are on track to achieve the 2025 targets, 18 others, such as Estonia, France, and Spain, are at risk of falling short. 

Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Latvia, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden are identified as being at risk of missing the municipal waste target.  

Additionally, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia are at risk of missing both the municipal and overall packaging waste targets for 2025. 

Waste generation trends 

The report indicates that Europeans generate an average of 530kg of municipal waste per person each year. Although recycling rates have increased, with 50% of municipal waste being recycled or composted, 23% still ends up in landfills.  

The amount of packaging waste generated has risen by 15% between 2013 and 2020, reaching nearly 80 million tonnes. While 64% of packaging waste is recycled, there are challenges, especially with plastic recycling, where less than 40% is recycled in many EU countries. 

Significant variances among member states 

The report highlights significant variations in waste management performance across EU Member States. Some countries need further reforms to meet EU legislation targets, especially in biowaste treatment, separate waste collection, and data quality improvement.  

External factors such as the Covid-19 pandemic and rising energy prices have also impacted recycling activities. 

EU recommendations and support 

The European Commission is providing specific recommendations for the 18 Member States at risk of missing the 2025 recycling targets.  

These recommendations include reducing non-recyclable waste, promoting reuse, enhancing separate waste collection, developing recycling capacities, improving governance, and raising awareness.  

The Commission will continue supporting Member States through EU funds, technical assistance, and initiatives like the Environmental Implementation Review. 

In a nutshell, the early warning report builds on the Environmental Implementation Review, addressing challenges in the implementation of EU waste legislation.  

It emphasises the importance of addressing issues such as illegal landfills, which pose environmental and greenhouse gas concerns while also missing opportunities for the recovery of secondary raw materials.  

The Commission underscores the responsibility of national authorities in intensifying policy efforts to meet recycling targets and reduce landfilling, despite external challenges.