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Directive on waste

With a view to breaking the link between growth and waste generation, the European Union has provided itself with a legal framework aimed at the whole waste cycle from generation to disposal, placing the emphasis on recovery and recycling.


Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives.


This Directive establishes a legal framework for the treatment of waste * within the Community. It aims at protecting the environment and human health through the prevention of the harmful effects of waste generation and waste management.

It applies to waste other than:

  • gaseous effluents;
  • radioactive elements;
  • decommissioned explosives;
  • faecal matter;
  • waste waters;
  • animal by-products;
  • carcasses of animals that have died other than by being slaughtered;
  • elements resulting from mineral resources.

Waste hierarchy

In order to better protect the environment, the Member States should take measures for the treatment of their waste in line with the following hierarchy which is listed in order of priority:

  • prevention *;
  • preparing for reuse;
  • recycling *;
  • other recovery *, notably energy recovery;
  • disposal.

Member States can implement legislative measures with a view to reinforcing this waste treatment hierarchy. However, they should ensure that waste management does not endanger human health and is not harmful to the environment.

Waste management *

Any producer or holder of waste must carry out their treatment themselves or else must have treatment carried out by a broker, establishment or undertaking. Member States may cooperate, if necessary, to establish a network of waste disposal facilities. This network must allow for the independence of the European Union with regard to the treatment of waste.

Dangerous waste must be stored and treated in conditions that ensure the protection of health and the environment. They must not, in any case be mixed with other dangerous waste and must be packaged or labelled in line with international or Community regulations.

Permits and registrations

Any establishment or undertaking intending to carry out waste treatment must obtain a permit from the competent authorities who determine notably the quantity and type of treated waste, the method used as well as monitoring and control operations.

Any incineration or co-incineration method aimed at energy recovery must only be carried out if this recovery takes place with a high level of energy efficiency.

Plans and programmes

The competent authorities must establish one or more management plans to cover the whole territory of the Member State concerned. These plans contain, notably, the type, quantity and source of waste, existing collection systems and location criteria.

Prevention programmes must also be drawn up, with a view to breaking the link between economic growth and the environmental impacts associated with the generation of waste.

These programmes are to be communicated by Member States to the European Commission.


The generation of waste is increasing within the European Union. It has therefore become of prime importance to specify basic notions such as recovery and disposal, so as to better organise waste management activities.

It is also essential to reinforce measures to be taken with regard to prevention as well as the reduction of the impacts of waste generation and waste management on the environment. Finally, the recovery of waste should be encouraged so as to preserve natural resources.

This Directive repeals directives 75/439/EEC, 91/689/EEC and 2006/12/EC.

Key terms used in the Act
  • Waste: any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard.
  • Waste management: the collection, transport, recovery and disposal of waste, including the supervision of such operations and the after-care of disposal sites, and including actions taken as a dealer or broker.
  • Prevention: measures taken before a substance, material or product has become waste.
  • Recovery: any operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose.
  • Recycling: any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Directive 2008/98/EC



L312/3 of 22.11.2008

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 04.03.2009

See also

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