Indicator: Recycling municipal waste

A graph shows the proportions of processed and recycled municipal waste in the total quantity of municipal waste from 2002 to 2018. During this period the proportion of recycled municipal waste rose from 56.1 to 67.1 percent.Click to enlarge
Share of processed and recycled municipal waste in the total amount of municipal waste
Source: Federal Statistical Office of Germany Figure as PDF

Table of Contents


At a glance

  • The recycling rate for municipal waste rose from 56 % in 2002 to 67 % in 2018.
  • The target set by the Federal Government of increasing the recycling percentage for municipal waste to 65 % by 2020 has therefore been achieved.
  • However, there is still a need for action for individual subgroups of municipal waste.

Environmental importance

Municipal wastes cover a broad range of different types of waste, such as domestic waste, collection of segregated paper, glass and organic waste and electrical appliances. Although these only account for around 12 % (net) of the total waste generated annually, they are very heterogeneous and resources relevant compared to other types of waste. They are therefore representative of the challenges faced by waste management overall.

Substances worth recovering are increasingly collected separately and usually recycled. This applies particularly to waste paper, glass, packaging and organic wastes. This saves raw materials, decreases the use of primary energy and therefore reduces carbon dioxide emissions. In the past it was customary to deposit municipal wastes without further processing. This has been forbidden since 2005. Methane emissions from landfill sites have therefore declined significantly.


Assessing the development

Recycling of municipal waste has been at a relatively high level in Germany for a long time. In 2002 it was 56 %. Over 60 % of municipal waste has been recycled in Germany since as long ago as 2005.

The 2008 EU Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC) has so far set the follwing recycling target: Each country must achieve a recycling rate of 50 % for certain materials by 2020 . The German Federal Government has increased this requirement in the Circular Economy Act of 2012: 65 % of all municipal waste must be recycled (KrWG 2012).

The amended Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2018/851/EC) lays down the following targets for the recycling of municipal waste (including preparation for re-use) taking into account a new output-based calculation method: 55 % by 2025, 60 % by 2030 and 65 % by 2035. The European targets are currently being translated into national law of the Member States.

A clear rise in recycling rates has been observed since 2002. The recycling rate for municipal waste reached 65 % for the first time in 2012 and, after falling in 2013, exceeded this value again since 2014. The efforts to expand material recycling of municipal waste will be continued in order to raise this level further.



The recycling rate is published annually in the waste balance of the Federal Statistical Office of Germany (Destatis 2020, 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: 'Verwertungsquoten der wichtigsten Abfallarten' (in German only).