Big divide in Europe's waste disposal performance

Rubbish bins in an Athens street, 12 Oct 11 Crisis-hit Greece is at the bottom of the EU table for waste management

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Several countries in southern and eastern Europe are falling well below EU targets for waste management, with Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece among the worst offenders, an EU report says.

Northern European countries mostly have the best results, the comparison shows.

"Many member states are still landfilling huge amounts of municipal waste... despite better alternatives," the EU environment commissioner said.

The UK also relies too much on landfill, according to the EU report.

Austria shares top spot

A "medals table" for waste management shows red flags - the worst scores - dominating the results for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Lithuania, Malta and Romania.

The UK gets one red flag for the category "existence of ban/restrictions for the disposal of municipal waste into landfills".

The UK's overall score is 32, while Austria and the Netherlands top the table with 39 points each.

In a statement to the BBC, the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said "recent statistics show our recycling rate improves every year and we are sending less waste to landfill".

"We are pleased this has been recognised and that the UK is listed in the top performers," the statement went on. "There is still room for further improvement and by working together with local authorities, businesses and communities we will continue to see the amount of waste recycled go up, with less going to landfill."

The best performing countries - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden - resort to landfill for less than 5% of their waste.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said poor waste management was widespread despite the provision of EU budget funds for recycling schemes.

The Commission says full implementation of EU waste legislation would save 72bn euros (£57bn; $89bn) a year, increase the annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by 42bn euros and create more than 400,000 jobs by 2020.

The 10 worst performing states will be given Commission "roadmaps" for improving their waste management, with the aim of spreading best practice across the 27-nation bloc.

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