Waste management and the circular economy in Greece

Project description

Title: Support to the Implementation of the National Waste Management Plan of Greece
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Services (SRSS)
Country: Greece
Lead executing agency: Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy (YPEN)
Overall term: 2018 to 2020

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Based on the EU`s Waste Framework Directive, Greece adopted a National Waste Management Plan (NWMP) in 2015. The Greek Government has already put initial measures in place towards implementing the NWMP but faces challenges as it seeks to achieve its targets and specified recycling rates by 2020 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the waste sector. The country now has to reduce the amount of waste being disposed on landfills, increase reuse and recycling rates and dispose hazardous waste more efficiently. Further obstacles to overcome include its hardly accessible archipelagos and handling the large volume of waste generated through tourism during the summer months.

According to the NWMP (Law 4042/2012), 50 per cent of the aggregate Municipal Waste is supposed to be prepared for re-use and recycling through separate collection of recyclables and bio-waste by 2020. The Government is also planning to recycle or recover at least 70 per cent of construction and demolition waste, and 95 per cent of sludge by 2020.

Despite the additional political progress through the 2017 Recycling Law and the recently adopted National Circular Economy Action Plan, Greece disposes most of its municipal waste in landfills (80 per cent, vs EU average of 24 per cent), with only 19 per cent being recycled (EU average 46 per cent).

Concerted efforts are therefore needed to achieve the targets set out in the current EU Waste Framework Directive and the NWMP by 2020.


The framework conditions for implementing the NWMP in Greece and for achieving its national targets by 2020 are improved.

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GIZ is advising the Hellenic Ministry of Environment and Energy (YPEN) in carrying out necessary reforms in the waste sector. The European Commission (EC) and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) have commissioned GIZ to provide advisory services for this project, in cooperation with the EC`s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS).

The project analyses existing barriers, transfers relevant experiences and best practices from other EU Member States, and formulates recommendations for improving waste management in Greece. In this context, the project prioritises support for improvements in municipal waste management, specific regulatory issues within the waste sector and the management of specific waste categories. Technical support includes strengthening capacities within YPEN and among stakeholder representatives and project partners.

To support the improvement of municipal waste management, the project analyses and evaluates separate collection and disposal of municipal waste, particularly organic waste, and recycling. Optimizing costs is a key element of the interventions. The project will assess proven economic instruments, such as fee-based systems, but also financial incentives to prevent waste or to boost recycling.

The project provides support for specific regulatory issues within the waste sector by providing advice on waste classification. It is also piloting regulatory framework conditions for the economic instruments being recommended. To support practical implementation, concepts for awareness-raising measures in the areas of waste prevention, collection and recycling are being designed.

The project also provides advice on managing specific waste categories, such as construction and demolition waste, hazardous waste and sewage sludge. Special consideration is being given to the use of innovative technologies for processing waste and energy recovery.

Project activities are being organised in close cooperation with YPEN and other Greek agencies, including the Hellenic Recycling Agency (HRA), the country’s Ministry of the Interior and Administrative Reconstruction (MoI), Greece’s 13 regions and selected municipalities. The project provides for measures to be piloted in a number of municipalities in the Attica region, including separate collection of organic waste, the use of financial incentives, and the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Also included are workshops for representatives of local communities in the country. Synergies are also being created through cooperation with a range of industries, start-ups and non-governmental organisations. The deployment of GIZ experts and of short-term experts to address specific issues of waste management and the circular economy help ensure that the measures are embedded.


Support for the NWMP is making a major contribution to environmental protection and climate change mitigation and to Greece’s economic recovery. It is also creating new, future-oriented jobs. The holistic and decentralised approach taken by the project is intended to have a decisive impact on prevention of marine waste, something that is particularly important given the country’s topography and its large number of islands.

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Further information