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Disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated terphenyls (PCTs)

This Directive lays down rules to approximate the laws of the Member States on the controlled disposal of PCBs, the decontamination or disposal of equipment containing PCBs and/or the disposal of used PCBs in order to eliminate them completely.


Council Directive 96/59/EC of 16 September 1996 on the disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated terphenyls [See amending act(s)].


Member States must take the necessary measures to ensure that:

  • used PCBs * are disposed of;
  • PCBs and equipment containing PCBs are decontaminated or disposed of.

Inventories must be compiled of equipment with PCB volumes of more than 5 dm3, which Member States must send to the Commission by September 1999 at the latest. The equipment and PCBs contained in the inventories must be decontaminated or disposed of by 2010 at the latest.

These inventories must supply the following data:

  • the names and addresses of the holders;
  • the location and description of the equipment;
  • the quantity of PCBs contained in the equipment;
  • the date and types of treatment planned;
  • the date of the declaration.

Any equipment which is subject to inventory must be labelled.

Member States must prohibit:

  • the separation of PCBs from other substances for the purposes of reusing the PCBs;
  • the topping-up of transformers with PCBs.

Member States must take the necessary measures to ensure that:

  • PCBs, used PCBs and equipment containing PCBs which is subject to inventory are transferred to licensed undertakings, at the same time ensuring that all necessary precautions are taken to avoid the risk of fire;
  • any incineration of PCBs or used PCBs on ships is prohibited;
  • all undertakings engaged in the decontamination and/or the disposal of PCBs, used PCBs and/or equipment containing PCBs obtain permits;
  • transformers containing more than 0.05% by weight of PCBs are decontaminated under the conditions specified by the Directive.

The Commission:

  • fixes the reference methods of measurement to determine the PCB content of contaminated materials;
  • sets the technical standards for the other methods of disposing of PCBs;
  • makes available a list of the production names of capacitors, resistors and inductance coils containing PCBs;
  • determines, if necessary, other less hazardous substitutes for PCBs.

Within the three years following the adoption of this Directive, Member States must draw up:

  • plans for the decontamination and/or disposal of inventoried equipment and the PCBs contained therein;
  • plans for the collection and subsequent disposal of equipment not subject to inventory.
Key terms of the Act
  • The acronym PCB means:
    • polychlorinated biphenyls,
    • polychlorinated terphenyls,
    • Monomethyl-tetrachlorodiphenyl methane, Monomethyl-dichloro-diphenyl methane, Monomethyl-dibromo-diphenyl methane,
    • any mixture containing any of the abovementioned substances in a total of more than 0,005 % by weight.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 96/59/EC



OJ L 243 of 24.9.1996

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 596/2009



OJ L 188 of 18.7.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 96/59/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Decision 2001/68/EC of the Commission of 16 January 2001 establishing two reference methods of measurement for PCBs pursuant to Article 10(a) of Council Directive 96/59/EC on the disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated terphenyls (PCBs/PCTs) [Official Journal L 23 of 25.01 2001].

Last updated: 19.10.2010
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