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Target 12.5

Waste Reduction

target 12.5

By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.

Indicator 12.5.1

National recycling rate, tons of material recycled.

Minimizing waste generation and maximizing the recycling of waste is central to the concept of circular economy. However, currently the total amount of produced materials that are recycled, including e-waste are estimated to be low (based on academic literature). If countries are to better understand how waste is generated, collected and recycled then this will guide countries and other stakeholders to identify ways to address key waste streams (such as metals, e-waste or plastics).

The National Recycling Rate (SDG 12.5.1) is defined as the quantity of material recycled in the country plus quantities exported for recycling out of total waste generated in the country, minus material imported intended for recycling. Recycling also includes codigestion/anaerobic digestion and composting/aerobic process, but not controlled combustion (incineration) or land application.

Global and Regional Progress

Custodian Agencies

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has been promoting the shift to Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) patterns for the past two decades. It is the custodian agency responsible for 8 out of 12 indicators under SDG 12.

UNEP guides policy development for SCP through its global frameworks, networks, programmes and partnerships, through knowledge-sharing and facilitating access to science, policy guidance, technical tools and best practices.

UNEP contributes to SDG 12.2, “achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources”, by strengthening and communicating the knowledge and scientific base for resource efficiency and SCP. This includes scientific information on natural resource use and “decoupling opportunities” as a basis for evidence-based policymaking.

Additionally, UNEP works on strengthening the sound management of chemicals and waste by supporting parties to the multilateral environmental agreements to meet their respective obligations. This work supports SDG 12.4 ‘achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.’ UNEP also hosts the secretariats for several waste and chemicals-related multilateral environmental agreements and implements initiatives targeting various types of waste, including food waste and hazardous waste and chemicals.

As part of its actions towards SDG 12.6, “Encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.”, UNEP collaborates with the private sector in partnerships promoting innovation, technological solutions and financing to tackle our most pressing global environmental challenges. UNEP fosters partnerships with business and industry to promote green investments and apply sustainable business practices across value chains. It also promotes and builds capacity in corporate sustainability reporting.

UNEP Science Division

  • SDG Unit
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD)

The United Nations Statistics Division is the custodian agency for Indicators 12.4.2 “Hazardous waste generated per capita, and proportion of hazardous waste treated, by type of treatment” and 12.5.1 “National recycling rate, tons of material recycled”. The UNSD works closely together with partners in the UN coordinating efforts to effectively aid countries to strengthen their national statistical capacities to meet these indicators.

Among other issues, UNSD works towards establishing strong systems for reporting on progress towards 12.4.2 and 12.5.1. It helps countries better understand how waste and hazardous chemicals are generated, collected and recycled, to guide them and other stakeholders in identifying ways to address key waste streams.

The official UN report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals is launched in advance of the HLPF deliberations. This report includes an overview of the global progress towards SDG 12 based on its different indicators, which include global, regional and sub regional aggregates. They are calculated from data from national statistical systems, compiled by international agencies, on the basis of their respective mandates and specialized expertise.

Responsible for:

UNSD Environment Statistics

  • United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD)

Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme (UNU/UNITAR)

UNU is the custodian agency for Indicators 12.4.2 “Hazardous waste generated per capita, and proportion of hazardous waste treated, by type of treatment” and 12.5.1 “National recycling rate, tons of material recycled”, along with the United Nations Statistics Division. UNU has several initiatives on SDG 12, mainly centered around building sustainable infrastructure, ensuring efficient use of natural resources, and generating cleaner energy and less waste.

UNU is also heavily focused on its Solving the E-waste Problem initiative, which supports both Indicators 12.4.2 and 12.5.1. Electronic waste is one of the world’s largest and most problematic waste streams, accounting for 47 million metric tonnes of toxic garbage each year. This global initiative aims to dramatically reduce e-waste through policy change, product re-design, re-use, and recycling.

Additionally, UNU’s International Satoyama Initiative supports the implementation if SDG 12.3 by supporting the development of resilient agricultural systems that can respond to system shocks from climate change and that prioritize sustainable resource management.

Responsible for:

Guidance material


Questionnaire on Environment Statistics

External source

Manual on the Basic Set of Environment Statistics of the FDES 2013 - Generation and Management of Waste


Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics (FDES 2013)

External source

Metadata 12.5.1


Online Course: Environmental SDG Indicators

External source

Related resources