Overview of Waste

There are common EU rules on treatment and dealing with waste.  The aims  are to protect the environment and health and prevent the harmful effects of waste generation and management.

Member states must take measures for the treatment of waste in accordance with the hierarchy of priority.

  • Prevention;
  • Preparing for reuse;
  • Recycling;
  • Recovery;
  • Disposal.

Waste Permits

Member states must prohibit the abandonment, dumping, or uncontrolled disposal of waste.  They must promote waste prevention, recycling, and processing for reuse.

There are provisions for cooperation between member states to provide for an integrated network of disposal institutions.

Member states must ensure that holder of waste permits and public authorities disposing of waste comply with the EU requirements.

Undertakings and businesses storing, tipping or treating waste must obtain a permit from the authority dealing with the types and quantities of waste.  General technical requirements and precautions are required.  Competent authorities must check conditions and monitor compliance.  Recovery centres and undertakings disposing of their own waste must obtain a permit.

The cost of waste disposal must be borne by the holder or the predecessor who produced the waste.  Member states are designed to draw up a waste management plan.

Waste Treatment

A producer or holder of waste must carry out treatment itself  or have it carried out by an authorised entity.  Dangerous waste must be stored and treated in a manner which protects health and environment.  It must be segregated, packaged, and labelled in accordance with international or EU requirements.

A body intending to carry out waste treatment must obtain a permit from a regulatory body within the state.  This must determine the quantity, type of waste, and treatment methods, as well as monitoring and control its operation.  There are restrictions on the incineration of waste.

States’ Obligations

There must be a management plan to deal with waste for the entire state.  It must deal with the type, quantity, and source of waste, existing collection systems, and location criteria. Measures must be drawn up to break the link between growth and environmental impacts of waste.

States are advised to gather statistics on waste.  Statistics must be produced in relation to waste production, recovery, and disposal.  The statistics must be furnished to Eurostat.

Waste Incineration

There are measures designed to prevent or reduce public health risks and environmental damage caused by waste incineration.  There are strict operating and technical requirements on waste incineration and waste co-incineration plants. There are certain exclusions from the scope of the directive.

Incineration and co-incineration plants must have permits for their activities issued by the competent authority.  They specify the categories and quantities of waste that may be treated.  There are steps which must be taken by the plant operators to prevent or limit negative effects on the environment and risks to human health.  Before accepting hazardous waste at the plant, the operator must have information on the generation process, the physical and chemical composition, and the hazardous characteristics of the waste.

There are provisions designed to ensure complete combustion of the waste.  There are limits on air emission values in respect of carbon monoxide, heavy metals, dioxins, furans, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Waste discharges must be specifically permitted where they arise as a by-product.  Incineration and co-incineration residues must be reduced to a minimum and recycled where possible.

There are provisions designed to ensure measurement, monitoring, and compliance.  Applications for permits must be made available to the public.  The public has a right to be involved in the authorisation process.

Fuel and Radioactive Waste

A 2011 Council Directive  provides for the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.  It creates a legal framework for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.  It applies to spent fuel management from civilian activities and radioactive waste management from civilian activities.  It does not relate to releases or to waste from extractive industries which are covered by general waste legislation.

States are responsible ultimately for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.  In the case of shipment to a third country, the responsibility continues to lie with the State of origin.

States must put in place national policies, which:

  • keep the generation of radioactive waste to a minimum practicable;
  • ensure the interdependence of the different steps in spent fuel and radioactive waste generation and management;
  • safely manage spent fuel and radioactive waste, including in the long-term:
  • implement appropriate measures, including a graded approach;
  • govern all stages of the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

Disposal of Waste Abroad

States are required to dispose of their waste within their own territory unless they have concluded agreements with other States for the use of their disposal facilities.  Before shipment to a third country, the exporting State must ensure that

  • the country of destination has concluded an agreement with the EU concerning spent fuel and radioactive waste management and the safety of radioactive waste management and is party to a Convention on Radioactive Waste Management.
  • The country of destination has radioactive waste management programmes in compliance with the Directive.
  • The disposal facility in the country of destination is authorised for the radioactive waste to be shipped.

States must establish

  • a national legislative, regulatory and organisational framework including a national program for implementation of the policy on spent fuels and radioactive waste management;
  • national provisions guaranteeing the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management;
  • the responsible system of licensing;
  • the system of institutional control;
  • enforcement of actions;
  • allocation of responsibility to bodies involved in the different steps of spent fuel and radioactive waste management;
  • financing schemes for spent fuel and radioactive waste management.

Each State shall establish a competent regulatory authority.  This is to be functionally separate from any body or organisation concerned with the production or promotion of nuclear energy, radioactive material, electricity using isotopes or the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.  The authority must have legal powers and human and financial resources to fulfil its obligations.

License holders have prime responsibility for the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management through the control of the competent authority.  License holders are responsible for assessing and verifying the safety of their facility and activity.  They are obliged to continuously improve the nuclear safety of their facility and activity of spent fuel and radioactive waste management.  They must also provide for and maintain adequate financial and human resources to fulfil their obligations.

A safety demonstration is required as part of the licence application.  It is to cover the full lifetime of an activity and post-closure including the post-closure phase.

Information on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste must be made available to workers and the public.  The public must be able to participate in the process of decision-making.

States must establish and implement programs for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste from all phases from generation to disposal.  They must be regularly updated.  At least every 10 years, States must arrange for self- assessment and invite international peer review of their national framework, competent regulatory authority and/or national program in order to ensure that high safety standards are achieved.


There is a strict requirement in relation to landfill waste. Waste must be pretreated for landfill.  Hazardous waste must be assigned to a hazardous waste landfill.  Landfills for non-hazardous waste must be used for municipal and non-hazard waste.  Landfill size for inert waste must be used only for inert waste. Certain waste may not be accepted in a landfill.

Landfills are subject to operating permits.  They must determine

  • the types of permissible waste
  • capacity,
  • methods of pollution prevention,
  • operation,
  • monitoring and control,
  • plan for closure and aftercare,
  • financial security,
  • environmental impact assessment where applicable.

Shipment of Waste

There are procedures to control shipments of waste. They apply to shipments between member states or in and out of the EU. There are two procedures.  The green listed procedure applies to nonhazardous waste intended for recovery.  The notification procedure applies to waste intended for disposal and hazardous waste intended for recovery.

Measures must be taken to ensure waste is managed in an environmentally sound manner through the shipment process and when it is recovered and disposed of.

The regulators of the country of dispatch and company of receipt must be notified and must approve of the shipment.  There must be a contract between the consignor and the consignee.  In some cases, there must be a financial guarantee.

The notification must be submitted by the notifier to its regulator is which in turn responsible for passing it to the regulator in the recipient country and transit countries.  The regulators must give their consents or express objections within 30 days.

If the shipment can’t be completed, the notifier must take back the waste at his own expense.  The obligation to take back does not apply if the authorities considered that the notifier or the competent authority can dispose of the waste in another way in the country of destination or otherwise.

There are bans on mixing waste during shipment.  Information must be made available to the public and documents and records must be kept. There are restrictions on imports and exports of waste other than from countries designated as approved.

Movement of Hazardous Waste

The Basel Convention sets international rules regarding the transboundary movement of waste hazardous to human health and the environment.  The EU is a party to the convention.  The convention introduces a system for controlling, exporting, importing, and disposal of hazardous waste and their disposal.  Hazardous wastes are defined in accordance with a list.

Generally, it is prohibited to export, import hazardous waste or other waste to a non-party state. No waste may be exported if the state of import has not given a consent in writing to the specific import.

Import information about the transnational movements must be communicated to the states concerned by means of notification, so they may evaluate the effects of the movement on human health and the environment. The movements may only be authorised when there is no danger attaching to the movement and disposal.

Wastes which are subject to movement must be packaged, labelled, and transported in accordance with international rules and must be accompanied by a movement document from the point at which the movement commences to the point of disposal. States may impose additional requirements.

Parties to the convention must cooperate to improve and achieve environmentally sound management of hazardous and other waste.

Port Facilities re Waste

There is a directive requiring port facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues.  It covers all ships and ports.  Member states must ensure the port facilities are provided to meet the needs of ships without causing abnormal delays.  A waste reception and handling plan must be prepared for each port.  They must be approved by the member states concerned.  They must be reapproved every 3 years.

Ships other than fishing boats and recreational craft carrying less than 12 passengers bound for an EU port must notify certain information including the date and the last port in which ship-generated waste was delivered and the quantity remaining.

Unless exempted, ships must deliver their ship-generated waste before leaving a port, unless it is proved that there is adequate storage capacity.

Ports must establish cost recovery systems to encourage the delivery of waste on land and discourage dumping at sea.  Ships calling at state ports must bear a significant part of the cost whether they use the facilities or not.

Ships operating in an EU port may be inspected for compliance.  Where a ship goes to sea without having delivered the requisite waste or enjoying an exemption, the next port of call must be notified.  The ship may not be authorised to leave the second port without rectifying the position.

Recycling of Ships

A 2013 Regulation seeks to prevent, reduce and minimise accidents, injuries and negative effects on human health and the environment when ships are recycled and hazardous waste they contain are removed.  The legislation applies to all ships carrying the flag of an EU State and to non-EU flag vessels that call or anchor in EU port.  There are exceptions for warships, non-commercial government service ships and ships below 500 gross tonnages.

Each ship must have on-board an inventory of hazardous material it contains in its structure or equipment.  Use of certain hazardous material is forbidden.

Before a ship is recycled, the owner must provide the operator carrying out work, specific information about the vessel and prepare a ship recycling form.  This must identify the type and amount of hazardous materials and waste that will be generated from obsolete vessels.

Recycling may only take place only at facilities listed in the EU list of facilities.  They must comply with requirements regarding worker safety and environmental protection.  There is an authorisation process for ship recycling yards within the EU.  Those outside the EU must submit an application to the EU to show that they satisfy the requirements

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