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Brussels, 1 February 2010

Dedicated EU body needed to ensure enforcement of European waste law, says Commission study

A European Commission study published today recommends setting up a dedicated European body to oversee the implementation and enforcement of EU waste law. The study is part of a series of steps being taken by the Commission to improve waste management and ensure it meets the standards set by EU legislation to protect citizens and the environment. Illegal dumping of waste continues on a significant scale, many landfill sites are sub standard and in some Member States basic waste infrastructure is still missing. Illegal waste shipments are also a concern. A second report published today reveals that almost one fifth of waste shipments inspected as part of recent enforcement actions in Member States were illegal.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Compliance with EU legislation is essential if we are to achieve the overarching goal of EU waste legislation, which is to protect the health of European citizens and the environment. We must look at all the options, including setting up an EU agency or body which could enable EU legislation to deliver the maximum benefits for citizens, the environment and the EU economy."

Study recommends dedicated agency to enforce waste law

Overseeing the safe and environmentally sound management of waste is one of the most serious environmental challenges facing the EU today. An estimated 2.6 billion tonnes of waste is generated in the EU each year – about 90 million tonnes of this is classified as hazardous.

The study published today recommends setting up a dedicated agency at EU level to tackle the underlying problems of poor implementation and enforcement of European waste legislation. The scale of the problem has grown in recent years following increases in waste generated and shipped in the enlarged EU. In 2008, the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging the Commission to report on the feasibility of establishing a "Community environmental inspection force".

The agency would carry out a number of tasks such as reviews of enforcement systems in Member States, coordinated controls and inspection activities. This would be combined with the creation of a specific European body responsible for direct inspections and controls of facilities and sites in serious cases of non-compliance. A European network of Member States would support the agency in a number of activities.

The recommendations are based on responses from Member State officials and stakeholders through questionnaires, interviews and informal workshops.

The annual cost for carrying out the recommendations is estimated at just over 16 million. In addition to other waste-related benefits, full implementation of EU waste law would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, including methane from landfills, equivalent to almost 200 million tonnes of CO 2 a year . This would save €2.5 billion annually at today's carbon price of around €13 per tonne. Other significant economic benefits from strengthening implementation include a level playing field for European companies, better opportunities for innovation and increased access to valuable secondary raw materials.

An in-depth cost-benefit analysis will be carried out this year. Further steps may be proposed during 2011.

Gaps in implementation of EU waste law

Current gaps in implementation and enforcement have led to wide-scale illegal dumping and large numbers of landfills and other facilities and sites that do not meet EU standards. In some Member States, waste infrastructure is inadequate or missing (see IP/09/1795 ).

There is also growing concern about the high number of cases of illegal waste shipments. A lack of inspections and on-the-spot checks was identified as a contributory factor. In response, the Commission supported a series of coordinated inspections, spot-checks and controls of waste shipments in Member States in co-operation with IMPEL 1 , the EU network of officials from environmental administrations in the Member States. A report on the joint enforcement action is published today.

Over 10,000 transport inspections and several hundred company inspections were carried out. In total, 22 Member States and several neighbouring countries participated in the joint enforcement actions. In around 19% of cases involving transport containing waste, inspectors found shipments to be illegal. Most of the cases concerned illegal exports from the EU to countries in Africa and Asia in contravention of the export ban on hazardous waste or violation of information requirements for exports of "green", non-hazardous waste.

IMPEL is continuing with joint inspections of waste shipments and aims to extend these to all Member States. The Commission has also addressed the problem by proposing reinforced legislation. The proposed revision of the directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) includes additional rules to avoid illegal shipments of electrical and electronic waste, especially when falsely declared as used products. The Commission is also assessing the feasibility of strengthening inspection requirements under EU rules on waste shipment.

Further details:

1 :

IMPEL: EU network for the implementation and enforcement of environmental law

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