At a glance
- Since 2011 the amount of municipal waste has stabilised at around 50 million tonnes. Since 2014 there has been a slight increase.
- 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. Where possible, waste should not arise at all.
The total amount of waste generated in Germany is dominated by building waste which makes up around 54 %. 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, in 2016, formed almost 15 % of the total waste generated. 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 2010. While in 2002 it was still 52.8 million tonnes (million t), the lowest level occurred in 2006 with 46.4 million t. In 2010 it amounted to 49.2 million t. Since 2011 the value has stabilised around 50 million t. Since 2014, however, there has been a slight increase again.
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 19 % and the number of households by 5 % between 2002 and 2016, 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. 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 (Destatis n.d.). 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).