Brussels, 21 March 2013
Environment: Commission takes Italy to Court over inadequate treatment of waste landfilled in Lazio
The European Commission is taking Italy to Court for failing to comply with the requirements of EU waste legislation. Due to a narrow interpretation by the Italian authorities of what constitutes sufficient treatment of waste, the Malagrotta landfill in Rome and other landfills in the Lazio region are being filled with waste that has not undergone the treatment required by EU legislation. 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 taking Italy to the EU Court of Justice.
The Landfill Directive stipulates that any waste to be landfilled must be treated beforehand. This means that it has to undergo some "physical, thermal, chemical or biological processes, including sorting, that change the characteristics of the waste in order to reduce its volume or hazardous nature, facilitate its handling or enhance recovery."
An EU investigation has revealed that some of the municipal waste produced in Lazio is not treated in mechanical-biological treatment (MBT) plants prior to landfilling, because Lazio does not have sufficient capacity in this area. As a consequence, part of the municipal waste landfilled in the Malagrotta landfill and other Lazio landfills does not undergo the appropriate treatment, which should include proper sorting of refuse into waste streams and stabilization of the organic part of the waste. According to the latest information provided by the Italian authorities, some 735 000 tonnes of waste now escape treatment in the Rome province every year, with another 120 000 tonnes also going untreated in the nearby Latina province.
Italy considers that the waste landfilled in the Rome and Latina provinces should be considered as "treated" as it is crushed before being landfilled. According to the Commission, however, merely crushing or shredding unsorted waste prior to landfilling is not sufficient: in order to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment and any resulting risk to human health (as required by both the Landfill and Waste Framework Directives), the treatment must also include proper sorting of the different waste streams.
In the light of the above, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice on 17 June 2011 and a reasoned opinion on 1 June 2012. After studying the replies sent by the Italian authorities, the Commission has concluded that the treatment deficiencies in Lazio are likely to continue until 2015.
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 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 more information:
On EU waste legislation in general:
On implementation of Community environmental legislation:
On the March infringement package decisions, see MEMO/13/261
On the general infringement procedure, see also MEMO/12/12
For more information on infringement procedures:
Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)
Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)