Waste regulations

Given the growing amount of waste, the European Union has laid down a specific regulatory framework to curb the production of waste, promote its reuse and recycling, and ensure appropriate waste treatment. The European Union's general waste management objective consists of protecting the environment and human health, while fighting climate change.

General framework

    • The new Framework Directive on waste - 2008/98/EC
      Publication date: 22 November 2008 /
      Transposition deadline: 22 December 2010

By laying down a new Framework Directive on waste treatment in Europe, the European authorities wish to encourage national waste prevention programmes and promote recycling and waste recovery.  

This new Directive reinforces the principle of a hierarchy in waste treatment methods by inciting Member States to implement the following order of priority: prevention, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and, as a last resort, disposal.

Moreover, Member States have been given ambitious recycling objectives: 50% of municipal waste and 70% of non-hazardous waste from construction and demolition by 2020.

The Directive clarifies the definitions of recycling and recovery and introduces the notions of “by-products” and “end-of-waste status”.

It simplifies existing legislation by repealing the former Directive on waste, the Directive on hazardous waste and part of the Directive on the disposal of waste oils.

        • Regulation on shipments of waste - 1013/2006/EC
          Publication date: 12 July 2006 / Enforcement: Immediate

This regulation aims to reinforce, simplify and detail the procedures to control cross-border shipments of waste in order to improve environmental protection. The regulation distinguishes between 2 categories of waste likely to be shipped from one country to another:

- Non-hazardous waste intended for recovery (“green” list, free movement under certain conditions)

- Waste intended for disposal and hazardous waste (“orange” list): shipment prohibited except in the case of specific agreements between Member States

This regulation is partly based on the Basel Convention on the cross-border movements of waste.

Waste treatment operations

        • Directive on the landfill of waste – 1999/31/EC
          Publication date: 16 July 1999 / Transposition deadline: 16 June 2001

This Directive lays down the technical and operational requirements applicable to landfills and the waste they receive. It aims to prevent or reduce the negative effects of landfilling, particularly on surface water, underground water, soil, air and health.

It defines 4 types of waste (municipal, hazardous, non-hazardous and inert) and distinguishes between 3 categories of facilities:

- Landfills for hazardous waste

- Landfills for non-hazardous waste

- Landfills for inert waste

This directive requires Member States to reduce the biodegradable part of buried waste by 35% by 2016. Moreover, the Directive provides that only waste which has undergone prior treatment is eligible, and that decommissioned sites must be monitored and analysed as long as the competent authority deems it necessary (e.g., 30 years in France).

  • Directive on Industrial emissions (IED) – 2010/75/EU
    Publication date: 17 December 2010/ Transposition deadline: 7 January 2013

This directive streamlines previous EU regulations on Industrial emissions by bringing together in a single instrument directive 96/61/CE on Integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) and six sectoral directives, including the directive on the incineration of waste (2000/76/EC).

The aim of this Directive is to prevent and control pollution of the atmosphere, water and soil, as well as the quantity of waste stemming from industrial and agricultural facilities. Such installations are required to hold a permit based on their pollution potential. The Directive encourages and promotes the use of the best available technologies to reduce pollutant emissions and defines the thresholds. It concerns over 55,000 facilities in Europe.

According to the Directive on the incineration of waste, before their commissioning, incineration plants and co-incineration plants must be issued a permit from the competent authorities. They must comply with the maximum emission limits laid down for polluting components (e.g., carbon monoxide, dust, hydrogen fluoride, sulphur dioxide). This Directive applies to all incineration plants which treat over 50 metric tonnes of waste per day.

        • Directive on the protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture - 86/278/EEC
          Publication date: 4 July 1986 / Transposition deadline: 18 June 1989

This Directive aims to optimise the use of sewage sludge in agriculture while preventing any harmful effect on health and the environment. It prohibits the use of untreated sludge in agriculture, unless injected or worked into the soil. The Directive defines the limit values for the concentration of heavy metals in the sludge. It also requires Member States to provide detailed information on their sewage sludge (quantity produced, quantity used in agriculture, type of treatment used and composition).

Specific waste flows

        • Directive on packaging and packaging waste - 94/62/EC 
          Publication date: 31 December 1994 / Transposition deadline:
          26 June 1996   

This Directive aims to reduce the environmental impact of packaging and packaging waste by setting specific targets for the recycling and recovery of packaging waste on the European market:

- At least 60% of packaging waste must be recovered or incinerated in high-energy producing plants

- 55% to 80% of packaging waste must be recycled

The following recycling targets must be attained for materials contained in packaging waste:

- 60% for glass, paper and cardboard

- 50% for metals

- 22.5% for plastics

- 15% for wood

        • Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) – 2012/19/EU
          Publication date: 4 July 2012 / Transposition deadline: 24 February 2014

The WEEE Directive aims to reduce the disposal of such waste by promoting its recycling. It makes the collection of WEEE compulsory, as well as the salvage/reuse or recycling of the waste collected.

Moreover, household appliance manufacturers must pay for the collection (from the collection point), treatment and disposal of the WEEE from households and businesses.

In 2012, the objectives for collection rate were revised upwards : by 2016, this rate shall reach 45% of the average weight of WEEE from households and businesses placed on the market in the three previous years and reach 65% by 2019. Moreover, recycling and recovery objectives are currently established by category of equipments to 50% to 75% for reuse and recycling and to 70 to 80% for recovery. By 2018, these rates shall be raised by 5 percentage points.

        • Directive on end-of-life vehicles (ELV) - 2000/53/EC
          Publication date: 21 October 2000 / Transposition deadline:
          21 April 2002

This Directive requires owners of end-of-life vehicles to hand them over to a certified operator for their dismantling, as a condition for their de-registration. Dismantling implies the extraction of all materials, the optimisation of their reuse, their recycling and the recovery of all possible resources. 

The Directive sets a target of 85% recycling and 95% recovery by 2015.