Municipal waste

The amount of municipal waste generated in a country is related to the rate of urbanisation, the types and patterns of consumption, household revenue and lifestyles. While municipal waste is only one part of total waste generated in each country, its management and treatment often absorbs more than one third of the public sector’s financial efforts to abate and control pollution.

The main concerns raised by municipal waste are the potential impacts from inappropriate waste management on human health and the environment (soil and water contamination, air quality, land use and landscape).


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.

The kilogrammes of municipal waste per capita produced each year – or “waste generation intensities” – provide one broad indicator of the potential environmental and health pressures from municipal waste. They should be complemented with information on waste management practices and costs, and on consumption levels and patterns.


The definition of municipal waste, the type of waste covered and the surveying methods used to collect information vary from country to country and over time. Breaks in time series exist for: Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Norway, Poland, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Turkey.

The main problems in terms of data comparability relate to the coverage of household like waste from commerce and trade, and of separate waste collections that may include hazardous waste from households such as waste batteries or waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) and waste collected by the private sector in the framework of extended producer responsibility schemes.

In some cases the reference year refers to the closest available year.

Data for Estonia exclude packaging waste separately collected for recycling and thus under-estimate the amount of municipal waste generated.


During the 1990s, municipal waste generated in the OECD area has risen (19%), mostly in line with private consumption expenditure and GDP. As of the early 2000s, this rise has been slowing down. Today, the quantity of municipal waste generated exceeds an estimated 650 million tonnes (522 kg per capita). 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.

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.


Further information

Analytical publications


Table. Municipal waste generation

Municipal waste generation
kg per capita, 2013 or latest available year