Waste Management: European Vs. Developing Countries

In both, developed and developing countries, there is an increasing consumption of resources, but with the difference that in the developing world the management of these materials after used is very deficient from a sustainable point of view. A recent research relates that the average...


In both, developed and developing countries, there is an increasing consumption of resources, but with the difference that in the developing world the management of these materials after used is very deficient from a sustainable point of view. A recent research relates that the average European produces over 500 kg. of domestic waste per year, nonetheless, for developing nations this value is increasing even faster; for example, In India, the production of materials are estimated to be twice as much as now by 2030, and for China, this value will probably triplicate its actual rate.

The necessity of immediate actions due to uncontrolled consumption, is leading the European countries for formulating policies to combat environmental challenges. The Waste Framework Directives (WFD) formulated by the European Union (EU), are the responsible of establishing the legislative framework for waste management policies in Europe, which is aiming to reduce the environmental and health impacts produced by waste and to improve efficiency of resources in Europe. Also, according to the Directive 2008/98/EC on waste, by 2020 the EU has the target of recovering, re-using and recycling 50% waste material from domestic use and 70% from construction and demolition activities. On the other hand, for the developing world, practical policies still do not have a clear aim, being deficient in several countries or in the worst-case absent of waste management policies.

Developing Countries

For Buenrostro, Bocco and Cram, developing countries suffer a lack of studies related to solid waste, it is probably because of the insufficiency of funds intended to invest in developing technical knowledge. Also, Abarca, Maas and Hogland in 2013 showed that just few recent researches about waste management in developing countries give quantitative information, which may limit the objective assessment of the actual situation. Then, recent studies are mainly focused on relating the factors affecting the system and not to demonstrate accurate data.


Figure 1. Method used to incinerate health-care waste in some developing countries Source: Diaz, Savage and Eggerth, 2005.

According to Diaz, Savage and Eggerth hazardous waste policies in developing countries are characterised for being inefficient: resources are poor to manage waste, workers are exposed to chemicals, needles, blood and material infected, the recollection, transport and incineration (see figures below) or final disposal is inappropriate. So, the inefficient management of this waste affects not just the human health, but also the environment. However, every year more developing countries are becoming aware of the necessity of improving waste management policies.


Figure 2. Clandestine collector waiting for the disposal of waste without wearing any safety equipment. From Tachira-Venezuela, 2009.


Figure 3. Informal collection of plastic, glass, cardboard and paper. From Tachira-Venezuela, 2009.


Developed Countries

According to the European Environment Agency, an important step for the EU waste policy was developed with the introduction of the Landfill Directive in 1999, which highlights waste prevention as a first measure of waste management, followed by re-use, recycling and recovery, strongly avoiding waste disposal on landfills. This Directive helps governments to keep focused on the solution of the main issue. Also, the Renewable Energy Directive motivates national legislations to obtain energy from waste, by incineration (see figure 4) as long as this is consistent with municipal objectives and as a last alternative government should follow the accorded hierarchy, which consists of prevention, re-using and recycling.


Figure 4. Incinerator facilities of Grundon waste management company located in the UK. This incinerator generates power for nearly 50,000 households (37 megawatts of electricity) from 410,000 tonnes per year and meeting the European waste legislation. If your passion is waste management this is a great place to visit. Source: Grundon, 2011.


However, because there are variations on national regulations and hence, different methodologies to analyse waste management systems, it is evident the diversity of results when municipal waste management is evaluated (see figure 5).In addition, European WMPs are flexible to be adjusted on different localities, for example, in Estonia, Finland and Italy, national economic regulations were introduced based on EU Directives, those countries implemented additional fees for managing municipal waste, for the application of especial treatments such as incineration, composting and mechanical-biological process, to avoid the landfilling of waste. Moreover, the UK promoted the landfill Directive by introducing biodegradable municipal waste management systems and the Landfill Allowance Trading System, which enable the authorities to manage the biggest amounts of waste in locations where it is cheapest and appropriated to practice.


Figure 5. Municipal waste management (MWM) of the 27-EU Members. The EU27 average of waste disposed on landfill in 2011 was slightly over 37%, and incinerated waste was nearly 20% of the total MWM. 43% of recycled materials were not well defined due to the different interpretation of types of waste management concepts. There are evident variations between countries, where Malta has a very high percentage of waste landfilled and Germany leads the group of well-applied MWM policies with a very low percentage of 0.37 Source: Defra 2011, p.44.

For the European Environment Agency, the analysis of the EU-25 econometric results showed that national strategies might have slight impact on the local waste generation, it is probably because the difference of condition on each location and the diverse interpretations of the national policies by local governments.


Despite the success of the waste management policies in the European countries there are still some challenges that need to be attended, especially for hazardous waste which according to the Institute for European Environmental Policy, the newest Member State are still far from meeting the requirements of the Waste Framework Directive. That is the case of Romania, which 47 of its 53 hazardous waste landfills did not fulfil EU legislation in 2009. Also, it is known that European countries as developing countries have notorious variations of socio-economic development, which might result in a very important aspect to be considerate during the formulation of the waste management policies. Also, the EU effectively receives data from EU members, but in some cases this is difficult to analyse due to the variation in interpretation of EU directives.

Studies on environmental, economic and social impacts have not been researched in developing countries. So, it would not make a huge impact if European waste policies are adopted by developing countries, because they should start from identifying problems, when and how to deal properly with these waste policies and prioritise actions based on their conditions (economy, culture, knowledge, etc.). However, adopting technology, process and learning from EU countries can be a head start for designing their waste management policies.

Read more at:

Abarca, L., Maas, G. & Hogland, W., 2013. Solid waste management challenges for cities in developing countries. Elsevier, 33(1), pp.220-232.

Buenrostro, O., Bocco, G. & Cram, S., 2001. Classification of sources of municipal solid wastes in developing countries. Elsevier, 32(1), pp.29-41.

Defra, 2011. Environmental Statistics-Key Facts. [pdf] Available at: <http://www.defra.gov.uk/statistics/files/Environmental-key-statistics-Dec-2011.pdf> [Accessed 11 November 2012].

Defra, 2012. EU Waste Framework Directive. [online] Available at <http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/legislation/eu-framework-directive/> [Accessed 20 November 2012].

Diaz, L.F., Savage G. & Eggerth, L., 2005. Alternatives for the treatment and disposal of healthcare wastes in developing countries. Elsevier, 25(6), pp. 626-637.

European Environment Agency, 2009. Diverting waste from landfill. Effectiveness of waste management policies in the European Union. [online] Available at: <http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/diverting-waste-from-landfill-effectiveness-of-waste-management-policies-in-the-european-union> [Accessed 21 November 2012].

European Parliament, 2001. Renewable Energy Directive 2001/77/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council. [online] Available at: <http://eur-lex.europa.eu/smartapi/cgi/> [Accessed 21 November 2012].

European Union, 2008. Directive 2008/98/EC on waste and repealing certain Directives. [online] Available at: <http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/> [Accessed 19 November 2012].

European Union, 2010. Being wise with waste: the EU’s approach to waste management. [online] Available at: <http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/index.htm> [Accessed 18 November 2012].

Grundon, 2011. Lakeside EfW takes home two renewable energy awards. [online] Available at: <http://www.grundon.com/news/newsItem049.htm> [Accessed 21 November 2012].

Jones, T. & Dewing, C., 2010. Future Agenda: The world in 2020. London: Infinite Ideas.

Manowong, E., 2012. Investigating factors influencing construction waste management efforts in developing countries: an experience from Thailand. Waste management research, 30(1), pp. 56-71.

Paolini, A., Ramos, R. & Zamorano, M., 2006. Environmental diagnosis and planning actions for municipal waste landfills in Estado Lara (Venezuela). Elsevier, 12(3), pp.752-771.

Pires, A., Martinho, G. & Chang, N., 2011. Solid Waste management in European countries: A review of Systems analysis techniques. Elsevier, 92(4), pp.1033-1050.

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