Brussels, 20 November 2009
Waste management: Commission calls for better implementation of EU waste law by Member States
The European Commission today adopted two reports which reveal that EU waste law is being poorly implemented and enforced in many Member States. The assessment highlights the need for significant efforts by Member States to ensure that waste management meets the standards set by EU legislation. These efforts are crucial to protect the environment and human health.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Proper implementation of waste legislation is vital for the protection of our environment and health. Having legislation in place is not enough: the rules have to work in practice. Unfortunately, insufficient importance is attached to the enforcement of waste laws. The Commission receives regular complaints from citizens and the European Parliament regarding the bad management of waste. Member States must take the implementation of waste legislation seriously. We need to manage our waste properly so that we preserve our resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the health of citizens. The Commission will step up its efforts to assist Member States in better implementation."
Implementation of waste legislation in the EU
The reports show that implementation and enforcement of EU waste law remain poor particularly regarding the Waste Framework Directive 1 , the Landfill Directive 2 , and the Waste Shipment Regulation 3 . In many cases, waste treatment infrastructure is missing and waste is not collected separately. This results in reuse, recycling and recovery targets for waste streams such as electrical and electronic equipment, end-of-life vehicles or packaging being missed. There are also a high number of cases of illegal shipments of waste.
In some Member States which joined the EU after 2004, the situation is particularly problematic with heavy reliance on landfilling, inadequate waste treatment infrastructure and no societal habits to separate and recycle waste. The situation is not much better in many of the older Member States which continue to breach European rules of waste management and where inefficient diversion of biodegradable waste from landfills continues to contribute to climate change.
If properly implemented and enforced, EU waste legislation could reduce greenhouse gas emission by up to 30%. Waste legislation offers significant opportunities for EU companies to innovate and access valuable secondary raw materials. The significant costs of having to clean up after illegal dumping and its negative impacts on air and water could be avoided. Poor implementation of EU waste legislation is therefore a missed economic, social and environmental opportunity which the EU cannot afford.
When legislation is implemented well it yields clear environmental benefits. Over the last ten years recycling and recovery rates for packaging waste have been continuously increasing, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving resources. A landfill ban for waste tyres has increased tyre recovery to 95%, generated a strong market for tyre-derived materials and reduced fire hazards in landfill sites. Controlling hazardous substances in products such as electronics and vehicles has reduced health risks. These success stories need to be replicated in other areas of waste management.
Commission action to improve implementation
The Commission continues to pursue Member States that breach EU environmental law in the European Court of Justice – over 20% of all environmental infringement cases are related to waste management. Coordinated efforts are also being made to improve the awareness of national authorities, clarify legislation, provide guidance and exchange best practice.
The Commission has stepped up its efforts to support Member States in better implementation. Actions include awareness raising and information exchange events, guidance documents for Member States on a number of key issues concerning EU waste legislation, joint enforcement actions, and inspection activities in Member States in close cooperation with the EU network for the implementation and enforcement of environmental law (IMPEL). The Commission is also studying the feasibility of creating an EU Waste Implementation Agency to help address the problem of inadequate implementation and enforcement deficit.
Member States are obliged to report regularly on the implementation of waste legislation. Reports are sent to the Commission every three years and cover a number of waste directives or regulations. Member States also have to report annually (or every second year) on reuse, recycling and recovery rates achieved for different waste streams.
The implementation reports are available at:
DG Environment waste home page:
DG ESTAT website with statistics on waste: