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EU waste management policy

EU waste management legislative system

The EU has some of the world’s highest environmental standards, developed over decades. Environment policy helps the EU economy become more environmentally friendly, protects Europe’s natural resources, and safeguards the health and wellbeing of people living in the EU.

In EU well developed legislative system for management of waste covers several aspects of waste management:

  1. General framework  legislation on waste management;
  2. Requirements of waste management operations;
  3. Legislation on specific waste streams;
  4. Legislation on requirements on reporting and questionnaire.

General framework  legislation on waste management

General framework legislation specifies sets the basic concepts and definitions related to waste management, such as definitions of waste, recycling, recovery. It explains when waste ceases to be waste and becomes a secondary raw material (so called end-of-waste criteria), and how to distinguish between waste and by-products. As well legislation establishes the classification system for wastes, including a distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. Legislation specifies under which conditions waste can be shipped between countries.

Waste Framework Directive or Directive 2008/98/EC

Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006

Decision 2000/532/EC,

Commission Decision (EU) No 2014/955/EU

Commission Regulation (EU) No 1357/2014

Requirements of waste management operations

Waste management planning is the cornerstone of any national, regional or local policy on waste management. The establishment of a plan allows taking stock of the existing situation, defining the objectives that need to be met, formulating appropriate strategies, and identifying the necessary implementation means. The drawing up of waste management plans is an obligation of EU Member States. Member States can ask the regional or local authorities to draw up regional or local plans. The plans shall cover the entire geographical territory of a Member State.

Some basic administrative rules concerning waste management planning:

  • Waste management plans need to be evaluated at least every sixth year and revised as appropriate;
  • Relevant stakeholders and authorities and the general public must have an opportunity to participate in the elaboration of the plans, and have access to them once elaborated. The plans shall be placed on a publicly available website;
  • Member States shall inform the Commission of the waste management plans, once adopted, and of any substantial revisions to the plans.

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Legislation on specific waste streams

Waste stream can be separated by following:

- Batteries;

  • The EU legislation on waste batteries is embodied in the Batteries Directive. It intends to contribute to the protection, preservation and improvement of the quality of the environment by minimising the negative impact of batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators.

- Biodegradable waste;

  • Currently the main environmental threat from biowaste (and other biodegradable waste) is the production of methane from such waste decomposing in landfills, which accounted for some 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU in 1995. The Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) obliges Member States to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that they landfill to 35% of 1995 levels by 2016 (for some countries by 2020) which will significantly reduce this problem.

- Construction and demolition waste (CDW);

  • CDW has been identified as a priority waste stream by the European Union. There is a high potential for recycling and re-use of CDW, since some of its components have a high resource value.

- RoHS in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE);

  • EU legislation restricting the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and promoting the collection and recycling of such equipment has been in force since February 2003. The legislation provides for the creation of collection schemes where consumers return their used waste EEE free of charge.

- Waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE);

  • The WEEE Directive (Directive 2002/96/EC) provided for the creation of collection schemes where consumers return their WEEE free of charge. These schemes aim to increase the recycling of WEEE and/or re-use.

- End of life vehicles (ELV);

  • Directive 2000/53/EC (the "ELV Directive") on end-of life vehicles aims at making dismantling and recycling of ELVs more environmentally friendly. It sets clear quantified targets for reuse, recycling and recovery of the ELVs and their components.

- Mining;

  • Waste from extractive operations (i.e. waste from extraction and processing of mineral resources) is one of the largest waste streams in the EU. Wastes from the extractive industries have therefore to be properly managed in order to ensure in particular the long-term stability of disposal facilities and to prevent or minimise any water and soil pollution arising from acid or alkaline drainage and leaching of heavy metals.

- Packaging;

  • The Directive 94/62/EC aims at providing a high level of environmental protection and ensuring the functioning of the internal market by avoiding obstacles to trade and distortion and restriction of competition.

- Polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated terphenyls (PCBs / PCTs);

  • Directive 96/59/EC on the disposal of PCBs and PCTs aims at disposing completely of PCBs and equipment containing PCBs as soon as possible.

- Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs);

  • The international community has called for actions to reduce and eliminate production, use and releases of these substances. There are two international legally binding instruments - The Protocol to the regional UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) on POPs and The global Stockholm Convention on POPs.

- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC);

  • The Green Paper is a discussion document published by the Commission on this specific policy area. It is primarily addressed to all the parties (organisations and individuals) interested in the issues related to PVC.

- Sewage sludge;

  • The Sewage Sludge Directive 86/278/EEC seeks to encourage the use of sewage sludge in agriculture and to regulate its use in such a way as to prevent harmful effects on soil, vegetation, animals and man.

- Ship recycling;

  • Recycling of ships sailing under the flag of an EU Member State is governed by the EU Waste Shipment Regulation, which prohibits the export of hazardous waste to non-OECD countries. However, the existing legislation is not specifically designed for ships and is often circumvented.

- Titanium dioxide;

  • Existing Community legislation on waste from the titanium dioxide industry aims to prevent and progressively reduce pollution caused by waste from the titanium dioxide industry with a view to the elimination of such pollution.

- Waste oils;

  • Waste oils are governed by the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC, which stipulates that Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that waste oils are collected separately, where this is technically feasible, and are treated in accordance to legislation.


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Legislation on requirements on reporting and questionnaire

Member States have various reporting obligations concerning implementation of waste legislation. The two main types of reports include:

  • Reporting on targets: annual (or bi-annual) reporting on the achievement of various targets for waste collection, re-use, recycling and / or recovery;
  • Implementation Reports: these three-annual reports are based on questionnaires established in Commission Decisions together with the Member States (see the list under "Legislation – Implementation Questionnaires" below), and cover the main aspects of implementation of waste legislation.

There are two ways of reporting:

  • Reporting on targets: These reports are sent directly to Eurostat, typically 18 months after the end of the given reporting period;
  • Implementation Reports: These reports are to be sent directly to the Commission's DG Environment.

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