The organisation of waste management raises an important question: Who has access to waste - the public waste management services or private waste management companies ? The answer has important economic consequences, since waste management is a significant market. At the same time, environmental concerns have to be observed. The framework legislation of the European Community leaves the organisational structure of waste management to the national legislation of the Member States. However, under Community legislation waste is subject to the principle of the free movement of goods, which may be restricted on environmental grounds. Furthermore EU law draws a distinction between waste for disposal, for which shipment can be restricted more easily, and waste for recovery, which is subject to less stringent control procedures. Given the broad European framework, this article explores the national legislation in most EU countries. It aims to analyse the approach taken by the national legislators to find a way between public service and private autonomy. In conclusion, it seems clear that in the countries examined an important distinction is made between household and industrial waste. Only Germany has adopted the European distinction between waste for recovery and waste for disposal as a major criterion for the allocation of the waste streams between public and private entities, whereas in the other Member States this criterion only plays an insignificant, if any, role at all.