Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Planning for Europe's wasteful future

From Juliet Mann, CNN
June 22, 2012 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
  • EU countries produce 3 billion tonnes of waste per year -- 6 tonnes per EU citizen
  • By 2020 the world could be generating 43% more waste than it did in 1995 (OECD)
  • Stena Recycling's head Lars Petersen says his company's future looks bright
  • But he wants the EU to streamline its process to deal with waste management

(CNN) -- As European society gets wealthier, its piles of rubbish grow higher. Countries in the European Union are now producing three billion tonnes of waste a year, about six tonnes for every man, woman and child, according to figures from Eurostat.

One European country pitching to become cleaner is Denmark -- but one of its business leaders says the industry needs to be streamlined.

Lars Petersen is the chief executive of Stena Recycling, part of the Swedish Stena Metall Group. The company employs 3,200 people across Europe and handles 15 million tonnes of waste a year --- recycling metals, paper, electronics, hazardous waste and chemicals.

Stena Recycling can shred a car to create reusable resources in just one minute -- but getting through European Union red-tape is a far longer process.

It can take up to four months for the European Union to give the company notification it has reclassified waste as secondary resource, he said, a process which can impact on profits.

"Many of the products we have here, although some would say are waste, [are] actually a secondary product," Petersen said. "Many of them are listed on the London Metal Exchange, so it's a commodity and commodities go up and down."

Petersen believes the EU needs to increase its flexibility and speed in its dealings with the waste management industry, so his company can maintain its agility and protect its profits.

Petersen also points to inconsistencies across EU member countries in how regulations are treated.

"Sometimes competitive wise we are up against other competitors in Europe and if, you could say, some rules are bent a little bit extra although we are all under the same EU -- that is a challenge," he said. The company's focus, however, would be continuing to be innovative, he added.

By 2020, the OECD estimates that the world could be generating 43% more waste than it did in 1995 -- good news for those in the waste management business.

From a recycling and waste management point of view this is obviously good news and Petersen is optimistic about his company's future. "Our product, so to speak, is quite stable and will be quite stable for the years to come because we are all generating waste," he said.

Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Europe
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Marketplace Europe visits Latvia to see how the Baltic country has made its transition to the Euro from the Lat.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
CNN's Nina Dos Santos visits Latvia to speak to the country's outgoing Prime Minister and the prospects for the eurozone's 18th member.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1640 GMT (0040 HKT)
Malta is the gateway to Europe and on the frontline of the immigration flows. Isa Soares reports from a detention center on the Mediterranean island.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
CNN's Isa Soares speaks with people on the streets of Valletta who say their country can't cope with more migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
January 9, 2014 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
Malta cannot afford to continue supporting migrants from war-torn countries in its over-crowded detention camps, the country's foreign minister has told CNN.
December 26, 2013 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
Slow recoveries, bailouts, and youth unemployment. Richard Quest speaks to Europe's top CEOs about the issues of 2013.
December 26, 2013 -- Updated 2114 GMT (0514 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to economist Bob Parker about defining moments of 2013 and about what to expect in 2014.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
Estonia is setting the pace for other European nations with a thriving economy and its tech industry, according to the Baltic nation's leader.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
The Baltic nation of Estonia is developing its oil shale energy reserves in a bid to become energy self-sufficient.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Europe must stop being nationalistic if it wants to help a lost generation of workers, the regional boss of U.S. conglomerate General Electric says.
November 14, 2013 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Peer at the windows and you'll spot big colorful chairs, plastic plants and a huge bed, but this is no department store.
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1006 GMT (1806 HKT)
There once was a time, many years ago, when the sounds of bagpipes struck fear into the stomachs of Englishmen.
November 11, 2013 -- Updated 1116 GMT (1916 HKT)
Greece is on the way to economic recovery as investor faith returns to the recession-ridden eurozone nation, an executive at Greece's largest bank has told CNN.
November 8, 2013 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Could Greece's famous spice help the country's farmers through a four-year long economic crisis.
November 1, 2013 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
One of the masterminds behind the euro says Europe would have suffered a far worse fate if the single currency had never been created.
October 31, 2013 -- Updated 1741 GMT (0141 HKT)
Nina Dos Santos visits the Dutch city where the European treaty carrying the city's name came into force 20 years ago.
October 25, 2013 -- Updated 1510 GMT (2310 HKT)
As Spain continues its drive to slash budgets and cut spending, one of the nation's favorite pastimes is under threat as ministers look for ways to boost productivity.
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
The high commissioner of Brand Spain talks about getting the country back on its fee and attracting business.