European Commission Directives for waste

Much of our waste policy and guidance is based on European Union (EU) legislation which gives strong direction on waste issues to its member states. The main legal instruments that establish law and policy are called 'directives', and these specify the objectives that the EU seeks to achieve on particular issues. Member states are then required to translate directives into national policy, and implement their requirements within prescribed timescales. The directives that are implented by the Department are outlined below.

Waste Framework Directive 75/44/EEC, as amended

The Waste Framework Directive 75/44/EEC, as amended was the original framework directive on waste, which is been amended by 91/156/EEC and 91/92/EEC. The directive relates to waste disposal and the protection of the environment from harmful effects caused by the collection, transport, treatment, storage and tipping of waste. In particular it aims to encourage the recovery and use of waste in order to conserve natural resources.

Waste is defined as any substance or object which the holder disposes of or is required to dispose of pursuant to the provisions of national law. Certain categories of waste are excluded from the scope of this directive.

The directive requires member states to appoint competent authorities to draw up waste management plans and develop an integrated network of regional facilities. The directive also established the requirements for licences, registration of carriers and the polluter pays principal which are being implemented in Northern Ireland in regulations under the Waste and Contaminated Land Order 1997.

Landfill Directive 99/31/EC

The aim of the Landfill Directive 99/31/EC is to provide for measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce as far a possible the negative effects on the environment from landfilling waste. It also aims to harmonise the controls on landfill throughout the European Union and reduce methane emissions by setting targets for a reduction in the volumes of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill.

The main elements contain a mix of strategic objectives for reducing the amount and nature of waste going to landfill and improving landfill practices.

In terms of environmental protection the directive also contains detailed provisions for the design, operation, restoration, aftercare and monitoring of landfill sites. The requirements will apply immediately to all new landfills but existing sites will also have to be brought up to the higher standards, or will have to close. All current licences will need to be reviewed and there will be a transitional period, up to 2009, for bringing existing sites up to the required standard.

Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC

The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC harmonises national measures concerning the management of packaging and packaging waste. To this end the directive lays down measures aimed at preventing the production of excess packaging waste, reusing, recycling and other forms of recovering packaging waste.

It establishes percentage targets for the recovery of packaging waste and the essential requirements that all packaging must meet. The directive is partly a response to unilateral national measures such as the German system which are potential barriers to trade in the Single Market. The directive covers all kinds of packaging and packaging waste, whether it is industrial, commercial, office, shop, service or household regardless of the material used.

The directive is implemented in Northern Ireland through the Producer Responsibility (Packaging Waste) Regulations (NI) 1999 (as amended).

End of Life Vehicles Directive 2000/53/EC

The End of Life Vehicles Directive 2000/53/EC aims to prevent waste from vehicles and sets out measures for the reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery of end-of life vehicles and their components which will reduce the disposal of waste and improve the environmental performance of the economic operators involved in the life cycle of vehicles.

This directive contains challenging targets for reuse and recycling of end of life vehicles with progressive targets that will ultimately achieve 85% by weight recycling by 2015. The objectives of the directive are to prevent waste generation, increase recovery of components and to make manufacturers responsible for free vehicle take back. Most significantly the directive introduces permitting for scrap dealers and breakers so that the disassembly of vehicles is regulated.

Forthcoming European Commission Directives for waste

The European Union (EU) is continuing to introduce new proposals for strategic management of particular waste streams. Many of these controls are likely to be introduced within the next few years and will become operational within the lifetime of the Plan.

Current proposals include directives on:

  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) including targets for collection, reuse and recycling, restrictions on the use of hazardous substances and improved labelling
  • batteries, including targets for collection and recycling
  • waste oils, including targets for collection and recycling
  • household hazardous waste
  • composting, including separation and separate collection of biodegradable materials

European Commission Directives for environmental protection regarding waste

A number of other European Commission (EC) directives provide for stringent operational and management controls for waste management facilities, in order to ensure a high level of protection for the environment. Future new facilities developed in response to this plan must have regard to the measures and requirements set out in these directives, which are implemented through Northern Ireland legislation.

Hazardous Waste Directive 91/689/EEC

The Hazardous Waste Directive 91/689/EEC specifically addresses the definition of, and provisions for, hazardous wastes. This is implemented in Northern Ireland through the Special Waste Regulations (NI) 1998.

Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive 96/61/EC

The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive 96/61/EC aims to achieve an integrated approach to protect the environment as a whole from pollution arising from certain industrial activities, including waste facilities. It is concerned with applying the concept of Best Available Techniques (BAT) to prevent or reduce emissions into air, water and land. It also focuses attention on techniques to make best use of resources, raw materials and energy and to minimise waste.

The activities listed for control in the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive include waste management facilities such as:

  • landfills receiving more than 10 tonnes per day or with a total capacity exceeding 25,000 tonnes (excludes landfills of inert waste)
  • installations for the disposal or recovery of hazardous wastes with a capacity exceeding 10 tonnes per day
  • installations for the incineration of municipal waste with a capacity exceeding 3 tonnes per hour
  • installations for the disposal of non-hazardous waste with a capacity exceeding 50 tonnes per day

Waste Incineration Directive 2000/76/EC

The aim of the Waste Incineration Directive 2000/76/EC is to prevent or to limit as far as practicable negative effects on the environment, in particular pollution by emissions into air, soil, surface water and groundwater, and the resulting risks to human health, from incineration and co-incineration of waste. The directive incorporates operational, control and monitoring requirements and details air emission limit values for substances released into the air from the combustion process.

Environmental Impact Assessment 85/337/EC

The Environmental Impact Assessment 85/337/EC directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, as amended by directive 97/11/EC, requires the consideration of the impact of development on the environment prior to the granting of planning permission for a proposed development. Projects affected by the directive include waste management facilities as listed below:

Projects specified in Schedule 1 require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in all circumstances. These include the following types of waste facility:

  • waste disposal installations for incineration, chemical treatment or landfill of hazardous waste
  • waste disposal installations for the incineration or chemical treatment of non-hazardous waste with a capacity exceeding 100 tonnes per day
  • waste water treatment plants with a capacity exceeding 150,000 population equivalent

Schedule 2 projects require an EIA if the applicable thresholds and criteria specified are met and the development is likely to have significant effects on the environment due to nature, size or location. Schedule 2 projects (unless included in Schedule 1) include:

  • installations for the disposal of waste if the disposal is be incineration or the area of the development exceeds 0.5 hectares, or the installation is to be sited within 100 metres of any waterway or water in underground strata or marine waters
  • wastewater treatment plants if the area of development exceeds 1,000 square metres
  • sludge-deposition sites and storage of scrap iron, including scrap vehicles if the area of the deposit or storage exceeds 0.5 hectares or a deposit is to be made or scrap stored within 100 metres of any waterway or water in underground strata or, marine waters. The directive is implemented in Northern Ireland by the Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (NI) 1999.
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