Euro Trash!

December 9, 2015

Waste Management Chart Toppers 


When it comes to this recycling business, Estonians are the best performers in the EU with regards to their efforts. Each year they generate around 279kg of waste per person and recycle 40% of this, leaving just 167kg to be disposed of.

If we compare this to the UK stats, each year we generate 472kg of waste and recycle 46%, which means 255kg per person is likely left to go to landfill.





The Swedes recycle 99% of all household waste. Most people here separate their recyclable waste at home and in most cases live no more than 300 metres away from a recycling station. In fact, over a quarter of a million homes in Sweden are now powered by waste energy.

Swedish style recycling:

  • Newspapers are recycled into paper mass
  • Plastic bottles are reused or melted down
  • Plastic containers become raw material
  • Food waste is composted
  • Trash collecting trucks are usually powered on recycled electricity or biogas
  • Used water is purified
  • Waste collecting truckers pick up electronics and hazardous waste Pharmacists accept leftover medicine
  • Larger waste items, such as furniture, are taken to recycling centres




Very conscientious when it comes to recycling, Switzerland has one of the highest recycling rates in the world, here they charge for rubbish disposal (which is not cheap), have a landfill ban and demand that all non-recyclable waste should be incinerated.

In some communities they use a sticker system, which they apply to standard black bags, but in Zurich residents are required to purchase official bin bags for their household waste, known as "Züri-Sacks".

Once full these bags won’t be collected from their doorsteps. They need to be taken to a designated neighbourhood container. Available from all supermarkets, these bags however are not for recyclable trash.

The sustainable Swiss:

  • Cardboard and paper are collected at no charge once a month from the front of their homes.
  • Glass and aluminium need to be taken to the local recycling point - often near main public areas.
  • Plastic bottles need to be dropped into large containers outside the local supermarkets.
  • Larger items or electrical goods need to be disposed of via the ‘E Tram’ that visits the differing neighbourhoods on set days or they will arrange collection with ERZ, Entsorgung & Recycling Zürich.  
  • Community composting parks are set up next to residential areas for kitchen waste. Volunteers ensure the composting is done correctly and are responsible for the parks’ maintenance. In some areas these volunteers receive payment from a small monthly fee from the residents.





Italy presents a mixed bag (excuse the pun), with some areas not performing too well on the waste management front, whereas some regions are setting a precedent for the rest of Europe. 3.5 million Italians separate their household waste into coloured bags and in Rome they can expect a fine of over €600 if they don’t!

Capannori, a rural town in Tuscany, became the first zero waste town in Europe. After the residents revolted against plans for an incinerator near the town, they set upon a sustainable waste management mission and made recycling serious business rewarding residents for their recycling efforts. The town currently recycles 82% of its waste, aiming for 100% by 2020.

Some of the town’s waste management initiatives include:

Increasing the use of public water - to reduce buying water in plastic bottles. This saw the town opening water springs in public areas and the banning of plastic bottles from schools.

An emphasis on reusing not wasting - creating refuge centres that sell on unwanted goods.

‘The short chain’- cutting out the ‘middle man’ in the supply chain for local goods to reduce packaging. The town installed two self-service refill stations for milk supplied directly by local farmers. This saw 91% of customers refilling their own containers, thereby cutting about 90,000 bottles out of the town’s waste system, arrivederci!





It’s clear that from the examples from our neighbours that there are simple and effective ways for us to join in with their successes and triumphs in the world of sustainable waste management. They demonstrate key commonalities with regards to their commitment and community efforts, showing that together we really can make a difference.

Contact GD Environmental to see how together we can make that difference here.





(Images by: Benson Kua(CC BY-SA 2.0)  , Szary Wilk (CC BY-SA 3.0) , Sheila Sund (CC BY 2.0), Kumar Jhuremalani (CC BY 2.0)  , ToBreatheAsOne (CC BY-SA 2.0) ,  Smabs Sputzer (CC BY 2.0) )