The European Commission said in a report Wednesday that member states can boast of "excellent progress" in their recycling programs but have a long way to go before Europe can be considered a recycling society.
"This is not just about reducing negative environmental impacts and green house gas emissions, it will also create jobs," Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a statement.
Europeans have generated a steady 1,100 pounds of waste per person per year for the past 10 years despite a consumption rate increase of about 16 percent during the period.
About one-quarter of all food waste in Europe is thrown away, however, and European leaders say about 60 percent of that could be avoided.
There are large gaps in European recycling rates, with some members reporting a few percentage of waste recycling while others report rates as high as 70 percent.
A directive initiated by European lawmakers calls on member states to recycle 50 percent of municipal waste and 70 percent of construction and demolition waste by 2020.