Recycling in the EU and Member State Roles

June 21, 2021

Recycle, reduce and reuse is a mantra that advanced countries have advocated for among EU residents in the fight for a more sustainable world. In the last few years, ‘circular economy’ and the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are key recycling concepts that have become engrained in Europe’s political objectives and messaging.

In terms of planning and control, the European Union is a global front-runner in waste legislation. Through the adoption of the Circular Economy Package and Waste Framework Directive, EU Member States seek to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy which will not only reduce the EU’s environmental footprint but also foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs.


Some of the EU’s most important waste management policies strive to ensure: the development of waste recycling municipal policies to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030 as per the 2018 Plastics Strategy; the reduction of the highly pollutant production of batteries; and the development of a protocol to regulate construction and demolition waste which represents 30% of all waste generated in Europe.

However, even though common targets and directives apply to the whole of the EU, not all Member States are advancing at the same pace. Each country’s economic, legislative and cultural make-up provide a very different backdrop in the implementation of these waste management targets and directives. We are able to have a comprehensive overview of the progress EU Member States are making (or not making) thanks to the information Eurostat collect and publishes. 

The most pressing target for EU Member States is the achievement of a 55% recycling rate by 2025. However, we can see countries such as Spain still have a long way to go to meet these targets.


According to Eurostat, Germany and Belgium are the leaders in recycling municipal waste and packaging waste respectively.

For example, Germany is able to collect 66.1% of municipal waste. It put in place a deposit return scheme which puts the onus on producers to collect containers and provides a monetary compensation to citizens.

The second and third leaders in municipal recycling practices are Austria at 56.9% and Slovenia. However, Belgium is the undisputed leader in plastics recycling. It has in place a collection model that is similar to that of Spain, with containers distributed throughout urban centres, which allows the country to recycle 98% of its containers. Denmark and the Czech Republic are also among the top countries, while Malta trails at the bottom of both lists.


According to information published in a 2016 Eurostat report, Spain still has a long way to go when it comes to municipal waste recycling practices, ranking only 15th. However, Spain ranked 6th regarding plastic packaging recycling models. 

We can also see in these reports that Spain is far from achieving the EU targets. For example: In 2018, Spain recovered 35% of its waste, but by the end of 2020, it barely reached the 50% target. In fact, Spain only recovered 34.7% of its waste in 2020.

We are able to do our part by offering alternative sustainable solutions, such as PE and PET, and develop 100% recyclable packaging solutions and transform production into a circular economy.  However, to achieve the environmental shift we need to, according to a Eurostat report, increase the number of collection points for organic waste in municipalities and develop a tax framework that sanctions the dumping and burning of waste. If it becomes much more challenging and expensive to disregard waste in landfills, individuals and companies will turn to waste recycling and the selection of green materials, such as eco- and compostable plastics which play a key role in the achievement of ‘reduce and reuse’, the least of the ‘Rs’ used.  

At SP Group, we are committed to helping companies achieve sustainable practices. We offer environment friendly packaging solutions without compromising on quality and safety. If you would like to know who we can help you achieve a green transformation, contact us. 

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