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Environment

Waste and recycling

Managing waste in an environmentally sound manner and making use of the secondary materials they contain are key elements of the EU’s environmental policy.

Overview

EU waste policy aims to contribute to the circular economy by extracting high-quality resources from waste as much as possible. The European Green Deal aims to promote growth by transitioning to a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy. As part of this transition, several EU waste laws will be reviewed. 

The Waste Framework Directive is the EU’s legal framework for treating and managing waste in the EU. It introduces an order of preference for waste management called the “waste hierarchy”.

Certain categories of waste require specific approaches. Therefore, as well as the overarching legal framework, the EU has many laws to address different types of waste.

Read more about the Waste Framework Directive

5 tonnes of waste
is produced by the average European each year
Only 38%
of waste in the EU is recycled
Over 60%
of household waste still goes to landfill in some EU countries

Objectives

EU waste policy aims to protect the environment and human health and help the EU’s transition to a circular economy. It sets objectives and targets to

  • improve waste management
  • stimulate innovation in recycling
  • limit landfilling

Specific policies

Biodegradable waste

EU measures on treating bio-waste, including by limiting the amount sent to landfill.

End-of-life vehicles

EU measures to prevent and limit waste from vehicles once they come to their end-of-life.

Landfill waste

EU rules to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, as this is the most polluting way to deal with waste.

Mining waste

EU rules on the proper management of mining waste.

Packaging waste

EU rules on packaging and packaging waste, including recycling targets and recycled content.

Sewage sludge

EU rules regulating the use of sewage sludge, and promoting its use in agriculture.

Ships

EU rules on making ship recycling greener and safer.

Waste oil

EU rules on collecting and treating waste oils.

Waste shipments

EU rules on transporting waste within and beyond EU borders.

Actions

Law

All EU laws on waste.

Implementation

Implementation reports, guidance documents and information on how countries implement EU waste laws.

Statistics

Visit EUROSTAT for statistics on waste generation and treatment in the EU.

Contact

For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.

News

Recycling residential building materials: opportunities and limitations
  • News article

Recycling residential building materials: opportunities and limitations

Reusing materials from existing buildings (or ‘urban mining’) has been proposed as a means to reduce demolition waste, raw material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This study models the opportunities for urban mining in the Netherlands under practical constraints, up to the year 2050.

Events

Publications

  • Proposal for a regulation
  • Directorate-General for Environment

Proposal Packaging and Packaging Waste

The Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules on packaging, to tackle this constantly growing source of waste and of consumer frustration.

  • Proposal for a regulation
  • Directorate-General for Environment

Proposal regulation amending annexes POPs

All documents - proposal for a regulation amending the annexes of the regulation on persistent organic pollutants.