Help for 14 Member States falling behind EU recycling targets

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Eunomia has published a report outlining action plans aimed at helping the 14 Member States considered to be at greatest risk of missing the EU’s 2020 recycling targets. 

Following a review of all Member States’ progress towards the European Commission’s 2020 reuse/recycling target on municipal waste of 50%, Eunomia found 14 countries falling back, even after current policy measures were taken into account. 


After in-depth assessments of the States, the consultancy prepared early warning reports offering a general overview of problems. It then worked closely with the relevant Member States to develop priority action plans designed to improve their waste management systems.  

The 14 countries identified at risk include: Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain.  

Each country has received a blueprint for action, bespoke to its context, and designed to deliver the progress needed within the coming years.  

Recommended actions vary, but many include: 

  • More effective separate collection to ensure high-quality recycling 
  • Improving operation of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes 
  • Economic instruments such as landfill and incineration taxes and improved data quality. 

Eunomia principal consultant Tim Elliott said: “The action plans, along with EU funds, are key mechanisms through which the Commission offers support to Member States to achieve their recycling targets. The Cohesion funds should be targeted at actions higher up the waste hierarchy than they currently are if targets are to be met. The Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) can support Member States to make fundamental changes in their strategic approach, such as those proposed in the action plans.”  

He added: “What’s really promising is some Members highlighted in this study are already taking action – for example, we are currently supporting Finland implement certain recommendations from their plan.”   

Although landfill is the least preferable waste treatment option, it is still common practice in some parts of Europe. In 2016, ten Member States’ average landfilling rate for municipal waste was over 50%, and five countries reported rates of over 70%.  

Proposals to withdraw funding for residual waste treatment have also been put forward to encourage Member States to focus waste strategies and plans at the top of the waste hierarchy.  

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