Brussels, 24 October 2012
Environment: Commission refers Italy back to Court over illegal landfills, asks for fines
The European Commission is urging Italy to clean up hundreds of illegal landfills and uncontrolled waste tips. Despite an earlier Court judgement on this matter in April 2007, problems still persist in almost all Italian regions and the measures in place are not sufficient to resolve the problem in the long term. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore referring Italy back to the European Court of Justice and requesting a lump sum fine of € 56 million (€ 28089,60 per day between Court cases) and a daily penalty payment of € 256819,20 for each day after the second Court ruling until the infringement ends.
At present, 255 landfills – 16 of which contain hazardous waste – still remain to be cleaned up. In spite of the commitments made by the Italian authorities in 2007, only 31 of the problematic landfills are scheduled to be cleaned up by the end of 2012. A complete calendar for the completion of the works has been provided for only 132 out of the 255 landfills. Furthermore, the Commission has received no information proving that Italy has set up an adequate monitoring system to prevent new illegal landfills from being opened.
In the wake of the previous Court ruling, the Commission sent Italy a letter of formal notice in February 2008 and a reasoned opinion in June 2009, indicating that the systemic and general breach declared by the Court was still on-going. In June 2011 the Commission asked Italy to submit a credible calendar for the regularization of all the sites in question within a reasonable timeframe.
While some significant progress has been made, it is clear that problems persist in almost all Italian Regions. The Court ruling of 2007 has not been complied with, and the Commission has therefore decided to take Italy back to the Court and ask for fines.
Directive 99/31/EC on the landfill of waste is a key instrument to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment from landfilling of waste, during the whole life-cycle of the landfill. According to the Landfill Directive, landfills must meet certain conditions in order to continue to operate. Landfills that don't respect these conditions and uncontrolled waste tips are considered illegal under the Directive. The legislation aims to protect human health and the environment from the negative effects caused by the collection, transport, storage, treatment and disposal of waste.
Waste policy is an important element of the European Commission's resource efficiency strategy. If managed and treated properly, waste is a valuable source of materials that can bring solutions to resource constrains and create jobs. EU waste policy aims to deliver a more sustainable use of natural resources and the shift towards resource-efficient, low-carbon growth in Europe. Landfilling is the least favoured option at the bottom of the waste hierarchy, below waste prevention, re-use, recycling, and incineration.
Most EU Member States are now moving away from the practice of landfilling, and six are approaching zero landfilling (see IP/12/888), which brings numerous advantages: full implementation of EU waste legislation would save €72 billion a year, increase the annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by €42 billion and create over 400,000 jobs by 2020 (see IP/12/18). Italy scores poorly in waste management – 20 out of 27 Member States. Failings include poor or non-existent waste prevention policies, a lack of incentives to divert waste from landfills and consequently underexploited recycling and re-use options and inadequate waste infrastructure. Italy is estimated to landfill 51 % of its municipal waste (as opposed to the EU average of 38 %), and to recycle only 21 % of municipal waste (as opposed to an EU average of 25 %) (see STAT/12/48).
When a Member State has failed to comply fully with an EU Court judgement, the Commission has the power, after issuing two warnings, to take the Member State to the Court a second time and to ask for fines to be imposed.
For more information:
On the October infringement package decisions, see MEMO/12/794
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12