Waste is generated at all stages of human activities. Its composition and amounts depend largely on consumption and production patterns.
Municipal waste is only part of total waste generated (about 10%), but its management and treatment often represents more than one-third of public sector financial efforts to abate and control pollution. The main concerns raised by municipal waste relate to the potential impact from inappropriate waste management on human health and the environment (soil and water contamination, air quality, climate, land use and landscape).
The indicators presented here refer to total amounts of municipal waste generated as well as waste generation intensities expressed per capita. Treatment and disposal shares of municipal waste, along with private final consumption expenditure, are shown as complementary information.
Municipal waste is waste collected by or on behalf of municipalities. It includes household waste originating from households (i.e. waste generated by the domestic activity of households) and similar waste from small commercial activities, office buildings, institutions such as schools and government buildings, and small businesses that treat or dispose of waste at the same facilities used for municipally collected waste.
Waste generation intensities are first approximations of potential environmental pressure; more information is needed to describe the actual pressure. These indicators should be complemented with information on waste management practices and costs, and on consumption levels and patterns.
During the 1990s, municipal waste generated in the OECD area has risen (+19%) along with a rise in private consumption expenditure (+33%) and GDP (+31%). As of the early 2000s this rise has been slowing down. Today, the quantity of municipal waste generated exceeds an estimated 660 million tonnes. A person living in the OECD area generates on average 530 kg of waste per year; this is 30 kg more than in 1990, but 30 kg less than in 2000.
The amount and composition of municipal waste vary widely among OECD countries, being related to levels and patterns of consumption, the rate of urbanisation, lifestyles, and national waste management practices.
Over the last two decades, OECD countries have put significant efforts into curbing municipal solid waste generation. More and more waste is being diverted from landfills and incinerators and fed back into the economy through recycling. Landfill nonetheless remains the major disposal method in many OECD countries.
See Annex A for OECD trends in decoupling and treatment.
The definition of municipal waste, the types of waste covered and the surveying methods used to collect information vary from country to country and over time.
The main problems in terms of data comparability relate to the coverage of waste from commerce and trade, and of separate waste collections that may include hazardous waste from households such as waste batteries or electric and electronic equipments.
In some cases the reference year refers to the closest available year.