Nationwide study of municipal residual waste to determine the proportion of problematic substances and recyclable materials

Comparative analysis of municipal solid waste from representative regions in Germany to determine the proportion of problematic and recyclable materials.


Project management:    Dr. Bertram Zwisele 
Period of time:    09.2017 - 12.2019
Client:    Umweltbundesamt together with Witzenhausen Institut GmbH, INFA Institut Ahlen, Kanthak GbR (all Germany)
Relation:    National

The project determines the quantity and composition of household waste from private house-holds in Germany. By forming different layers of investigation, the relevant influencing variables on the composition of household waste will be broken down on the basis of analyses in fourteen investigation areas and examined with regard to their effects.
The focus of the investigations lies on the detailed determination of the quantities of recyclable materials, problematic and harmful substances which can still be found in household waste as well as an identification of possible dependencies of the input quantities on structural and waste management conditions.
Bulky waste has been sighted for the purpose of determining its composition nationwide and the proportion of reusable components in accordance with the originally intended use.
The study provides an up-to-date and reliable data basis for further waste management consider-ations with the aim of further reducing or minimising the quantities of recyclable materials and problematic and harmful substances remaining in household waste. For the bulky waste sector, statements on the composition as well as the potential of reusable components are shown
Figure 1: Composition of household waste in Germany
The household waste composition from private households in Germany can be described on the basis of the weight shares of five main material groups:
► Native-organic waste: 39.3 wt.-%.
► Dry recyclables: 27.6 wt.-%.
► Residual waste: 26.3 wt.%.
► Fine waste (0 - 10 mm): 6.3 wt.-%.
► Problem and pollutants 0.5 wt.-%.
Native-organic waste accounts for the largest share of household waste, at about 39 wt.% (Figure 1 and Table 1). This amount includes kitchen and food waste, garden waste, other organic waste, and filled or partially emptied food packaging.
Dry recyclables account for about 28% by weight of total household waste. In addition to waste paper, waste glass, plastics, used textiles and wood/cork, this also includes composites and used electrical appliances.
The residual waste to be disposed of with household waste in accordance with separation regulations in almost all municipalities and the fine waste account for around 33% by weight. In this group, hygiene products have the highest shares. The organic-mineral fine waste also includes residual waste such as sweepings and ashes.
Problem and harmful substances account for approx. 0.5% by weight of household waste nationwide. This group also includes pharmaceuticals and medicines, which in many municipalities can also be disposed of with household waste in accordance with separation requirements for citizens. Old batteries and accumulators are also included in this main group of materials.
Extrapolation of the mass flows determined for Germany as a whole yields a specific household waste volume from private households of 128.2 kg/(E*a). The difference between this quantity and the total quantity of approx. 156 kg/(E*a) collected via system collection represents the proportion of business waste in municipal household waste in Germany.