The information contained in this report aims to achieve a ‘snapshot’ of where we are with the implementation of the waste landfilling directive, form the perspective of the environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGOs) working on national and local waste policies. The sample of the countries covered includes 13 countries covering all regions of the EU25 – the North and Nordic, the Southern European and the New Member States.
It is based on responses to a questionnaire developed by the EEB and responded to by EEB member organisations. The focus of the questions is not entirely self-chosen but developed from the basis of an existing questionnaire on the same issue being applied by the EU Committee of Regions (CoR) with the intent of seeking regional authorities’ feedback on the implementation of the Landfill Directive. The aim of the EEB snapshot report was to give feedback to the CoR final report and to provide input to the ongoing European Commission implementation focus on the Landfill Directive.
In summary the conclusions are as follows:
- Governance: The general opinion on the level of public participation and in particular efforts made towards involvement of ENGOs in consultation on new landfill projects is judged to be moderate with room for improvement. The French and Portuguese examples of good practice using Local Commissions for Information and Surveillance do not seem to be commonplace. Information on conformity was perceived as available and updated (but in fact we were not able to collect many concrete cases of evidence of this). Interestingly very few organisations had actually requested the waste entry registers.
- Economics: Setting tariffs to cover the full costs of the landfill as required by the Directive was mostly perceived to be satisfactory. However the questions posed did not ask whether this included internalisation of the typically externalised costs so no conclusions can be drawn in this context. Interestingly the landfill taxes set appeared mostly to come from before the Landfill Directive and only three countries are using the landfill taxes set in a dedicated fashion to improve upstream waste management.
- Impact reduction – site compliance and upstream steering: The general opinion seemed to be that most national and regional authorities are taking seriously the 2007 deadline for upgrading and closing down existing landfills, in line with the Directive. Furthermore, the Directive is perceived to have a general positive role in aspects to do with the direct technical management of the landfill sites and the reduction of environmental impacts of landfilling activities. It is however apparently not delivering yet in terms of the more strategic role of upstream steering of waste management towards different treatment options such as prevention, reuse and recycling which can play an important role in (further) reduction of the impacts of landfilling activities. The implementation of the requirement for pre-treatment of all landfilled waste is an example of where the potential steering effect is not being harnessed.
- Biodegradable waste targets The national transposition of the biodegradable waste diversion targets is not clear cut. Although most member states do appear to have transposed the targets, the transpositions show numerous potential irregularities – including the use of the benchmark year (1995), the setting of the targets relative to population instead of in an absolute fashion, and the setting of targets at local level but not nationally. It is also clear that they have habitually made use of possible delays (the 4-year delay is applied in the countries of five out of the ten responding ENGOs).
- National Strategies
Concerning the National Strategies (supposedly established June 2003) there is
some disagreement between the ENGO responses on the entry into force of the
Strategies and the European Commission report on the subject based on
Member State feedback. According to the ENGO responses only five countries
were seen to have clearly attributable strategies – the validity of the Belgian,
French and Italian claims to have proper strategies was questioned. The
disagreement seems to be due to differences in understanding as to what status
such plans should have. Some strategies do not appear to have a clear legal
status with binding and concrete commitments and implementation measures.
Key observations and recommendations that can be made to the European Commission
One of the Directives under the Commission’s increased implementation focus is
the Landfill Directive. On the basis of the experience and preliminary information
collected here, the EEB would like to propose that the following points be taken
into account in this work:
- The apparent irregularities in the transposition of the biodegradable waste diversion targets require some further investigation.
- Detailed scrutiny of the setting of landfill tariffs – what costs are included and what costs are still in fact externalised – is necessary, in particular with reference to the internalisation of the inherent costs of applying fully the Directives requirements. This is particularly important in the context of the broadly held view that the implementation of the Landfill Directive had NOT reduced the movements of waste. Differences in landfill tariffs can play a part in this.
- A closer scrutiny of the legal nature of National Strategies and the precise nature of the measures they contain (in particular concerning biodegradable waste strategies but also, if available, other waste streams) is needed. What can these Strategies be expected to deliver? In particular in terms of actively steering diverted waste streams to recycling or reuse or achieving prevention at source rather than merely shifting to mass burn? Are the commitments clear and binding, are appropriate investments/infrastructure etc. foreseen? The timing on this is critical given the first landfill diversion date is 2006 (or 2010 if transposed with the 4-year delay) and decisions on investment in alternatives to landfill are being taken now.
- Harmonisation of the interpretation of pre-treatment (in line with the Directive’s requirement to ban all non pre-treated waste to landfill) is important as the tendency to interpretation of pre-treatment appears to be highly unambitious. The requirement has the potential to encourage authorities to invest in infrastructure for pre-treatment that supports more recycling (e.g. increased source separation). However it can also create investment in options such as stabilisation of the volatile fraction of the unsorted waste for subsequent burning and/or landfilling, or even less ambitious interpretations such as removal of a single component of the waste stream. While it is recognised that stabilisation options are indeed complimentary to source separation systems, it would be environmentally desirable to maximise the recycling potential by actively steering towards increased source separation.