At a glance
- The volume of municipal waste fluctuates only slightly over time. In 2019 it stood at 50.6 million tonnes.
- The target of environmental policy is to decouple the amount of waste from economic growth.
- This target has been achieved. However, to reduce resource consumption, municipal waste has to decline further.
Government is pursuing a variety of strategies to reduce the economy's demand for raw materials. One approach is the prevention of waste. Paragraph 6 of the German Circular Economy Act defines a waste hierarchy (KrWG 2012). It assigns the highest priority to the prevention of waste. Waste that is not generated does not cause any environmental impacts, which would otherwise be caused by its collection, sorting and further recycling or dumping.
The total amount of waste generated in Germany is dominated by building waste which makes up around 55 %. The total amount of waste therefore primarily reflects the economic situation in the building industry.
The indicator used here is the development of municipal waste which formed almost 12 % of the total waste generated in 2019. Municipal wastes mainly cover the types of waste collected by municipal waste management companies. The main ‘waste producers’ are households, administration and commercial companies. The amount of municipal waste therefore reflects the behaviour of a wide spectrum of waste producers.
Assessing the development
The amount of municipal waste has fallen slightly between 2002 and 2006: While in 2002 it was still 52.8 million tonnes, the lowest level occurred in 2006 with 46.4 million tonnes. Since 2013, however, there has been a slight increase to values above 50 million tonnes.
With the aim of strengthening waste prevention, the Federal Government adopted a Waste Prevention Programme in in accordance with § 33 of the Closed Substance Cycle Waste Management Act (KrWG), with the participation of the Länder (BMU 2013). Economic growth and the amount of waste should be decoupled and the amount of waste should grow at most as fast as the economy. This target has been achieved in terms of municipal waste. While the German economy grew by 25 % and the number of households by 8 % between 2002 and 2019, the amount of municipal waste fell in this period. Nevertheless, further efforts are needed to effectively reduce waste volumes at all stages of the value chain.
The amount of waste is published annually in the waste balance of the Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Destatis 2021, in German only). The waste statistics are based on a series of different surveys which are collated into a waste balance. Further information on the waste statistics can be found in the relevant quality reports. In 2002 the European waste register was established, leading to major differences in the definition of waste categories. Due to these significant methodological changes the indicator displays only values from 2002 onwards.
More detailed information: 'Abfallaufkommen' (in German only).