Environmental performance of household waste management in Europe - an example of 7 countries

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An attributional life cycle assessment (LCA) of the management of 1 ton of household waste was conducted in accordance with ISO 14044:2006 and the ILCD Handbook for seven European countries, namely Germany, Denmark, France, UK, Italy, Poland and Greece, representing different household waste compositions, waste management practices, technologies, and energy systems. National data were collected from a range of sources regarding household waste composition, household sorting efficiency, collection, waste treatments, recycling, electricity and heat composition, and technological efficiencies. The objective was to quantify the environmental performance in the different countries, in order to analyze the sources of the main environmental impacts and national differences which affect the results. In most of the seven countries, household waste management provides environmental benefits when considering the benefits of recycling of materials and recovering and utilization of energy. Environmental benefits come from paper recycling and, to a lesser extent, the recycling of metals and glass. Waste-to-energy plants can lead to an environmental load (as in France) or a saving (Germany and Denmark), depending mainly on the composition of the energy being substituted. Sensitivity analysis and a data quality assessment identified a range of critical parameters, suggesting from where better data should be obtained. The study concluded that household waste management is environmentally the best in European countries with a minimum reliance on landfilling, also induced by the implementation of the Waste Hierarchy, though environmental performance does not correlate clearly with the rate of material recycling. From an environmental point of view, this calls for a change in the waste management paradigm, with less focus on where the waste is routed and more of a focus on the quality and utilization of recovered materials and energy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Pages (from-to)545-557
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Household waste management
  • LCA
  • Waste hierachy
  • Environmental impacts
  • Country-specifik
  • Data quality


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