BONN, Germany (CN) – Better solid-waste management in the European Union could cut 86 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to a new report from the European Environment Agency.
Amounting to 1.53 percent of 2008 emissions, this savings would include recovering energy from biodegradable organic materials.
Though average EU waste volumes are on the rise overall, so is recycling, the agency said. The average EU citizen in 2008 produced 1,155 pounds of trash per year, up from 1,032 in 1995.
During that same period, however, waste recycling increased from 17 percent to 40 percent, as total landfill volume decreased from 60 to 40 percent.
By means of comparison, the average American produces about 1,600 pounds of trash each year.
An EU directive from 1999 ordered member states to better handle waste, promoting measures such as the creation of legally binding targets.
Germany is a leader in efficient waste management, with strict ordinances requiring manufacturers and vendors to deal with their own packaging waste. German waste companies employ high-tech sorting systems to manage everything from rubbish swept up from the street to household waste.
Although Germany produces the most plastic waste in Europe, it is also among the top recyclers on the continent, with EU statistics from 2008 showing a recycling rate of about 70 percent.
Since recycling avoids extraction of virgin resources, it also prevents greenhouse gas emissions, according to the environmental agency’s analysis.
The report is part of an overall EU policy to slash greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020.