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Environment: Commission urges Cyprus and Greece to clean up waste landfills

Commission Européenne - IP/12/66   26/01/2012

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European Commission - Press release

Environment: Commission urges Cyprus and Greece to clean up waste landfills

Brussels, 26 January 2012 – The European Commission is urging Greece and Cyprus to comply with the requirements of EU landfill legislation in Cyprus and on the Greek islands of Zakynthos and Corfu. Landfills operating in breach of EU waste legislation constitute a serious threat to human health and the environment. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending reasoned opinions and asking Greece and Cyprus to comply within two months. If they fail to do so the Commission may decide to refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice.

Greece is being sent two reasoned opinions. The first concerns a landfill situated inside a National Marine Park on the island of Zakynthos. The park was set up to protect the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta, a priority species classified as endangered.

Inspections carried out by the Greek authorities have confirmed that the landfill is still operating in breach of EU landfill legislation. In addition to being a threat to public health and the environment, the landfill is causing damage to the loggerhead turtle through pollution from leakages and the spread of plastic bags, and is attracting seagulls that prey on the turtles' offspring. The Greek authorities have acknowledged the problem and are in the process of constructing a replacement facility. Due to serious delays, however, the facility is not expected to be operational before 2014, and plans for a transitional period, during which the waste would have been sent to mobile units until the new landfills start operating, have been abandoned. The Commission is concerned about the slow pace of change and is therefore sending a reasoned opinion, asking Greece to comply with the EU landfill legislation.

The second Greek case concerns the Temploni landfill on the island of Corfu. The landfill is known to be operating without a permit and constitutes a serious threat to public health and the environment. Recognising the problem, the Greek authorities adopted a remedial plan for the site in 2008, identifying the measures to be taken to address all existing issues. As no appropriate action has been taken and the landfill continues to operate in breach of EU waste legislation, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion.

In Cyprus several landfills have been found to be operating in violation of EU waste legislation. Since the opening of these infringement proceedings, progress has been made through the closure and rehabilitation of several landfills and the establishment of an adequate waste management system.

However, according to the Commission, six landfills continue to operate in breach of the EU legislation. These six landfills still absorb the entirety of the waste generated by the municipalities of Nicosia and Limassol, as adequate waste infrastructure has yet to be built in these municipalities.

Background: waste legislation

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, existing landfills must meet certain conditions in order to continue to operate. 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.

For current statistics on infringements in general see:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/legal/implementation_en.htm

See also MEMO/12/42

Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)


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