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Landfill of waste

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Landfill of waste

The European Union has laid down strict requirements for landfills to prevent and reduce as far as possible the negative effects on the environment, specifically on surface water, groundwater, soil, air and human health.


Council Directive 1999/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste [See amending acts].


The Directive is intended to prevent or reduce the adverse effects of the landfill of waste on the environment.

It defines the different categories of waste (municipal waste, hazardous waste, non-hazardous waste and inert waste) and applies to all landfills, defined as waste disposal sites for the deposit of waste onto or into land. Landfills are divided into three classes:

  • landfills for hazardous waste;
  • landfills for non-hazardous waste;
  • landfills for inert waste.

On the other hand, the Directive does not apply to:

  • the spreading on the soil of sludges (including sewage sludges and sludges resulting from dredging operations);
  • the use in landfills of inert waste for redevelopment or restoration work;
  • the deposit of unpolluted soil or of non-hazardous inert waste resulting from prospecting and extraction, treatment and storage of mineral resources as well as from the operation of quarries;
  • the deposit of non-hazardous dredging sludges alongside small waterways from which they have been dredged and of non-hazardous sludges in surface water, including the bed and its subsoil.

A standard waste acceptance procedure is laid down so as to avoid any risks:

  • waste must be treated before being landfilled;
  • hazardous waste within the meaning of the Directive must be assigned to a hazardous waste landfill;
  • landfills for non-hazardous waste must be used for municipal waste and for non-hazardous waste;
  • landfill sites for inert waste must be used only for inert waste.

The following wastes may not be accepted in a landfill:

  • liquid waste;
  • flammable waste;
  • explosive or oxidising waste;
  • hospital and other clinical waste which is infectious;
  • used tyres, with certain exceptions;
  • any other type of waste which does not meet the acceptance criteria laid down in Annex II.

The Directive sets up a system of operating permits for landfill sites. Applications for permits must contain the following information:

  • the identity of the applicant and, in some cases, of the operator;
  • a description of the types and total quantity of waste to be deposited;
  • the capacity of the disposal site;
  • a description of the site;
  • the proposed methods for pollution prevention and abatement;
  • the proposed operation, monitoring and control plan;
  • the plan for closure and aftercare procedures;
  • the applicant’s financial security;
  • an impact assessment study, where required under Council Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment.

Member States must ensure that existing landfill sites may not continue to operate unless they comply with the provisions of the Directive as soon as possible.

Member States must report to the Commission every three years on the implementation of the Directive.

On the basis of these reports, the Commission must publish a Community report on the implementation of the Directive;



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 1999/31/EC



OJ L 182 of 16.07.1999

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003



OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 1999/31/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Information on islands and isolated settlements excluded by Member States under Article 3(4) of the Landfill Directive [Official Journal C 316 of 13 December 2005].

Council Decision 2003/33/EC of 19 December 2002 establishing criteria and procedures for the acceptance of waste at landfills pursuant to Article 16 of and Annex II to Directive 1999/31/EC [Official Journal L 11 of 16.01.2003].

Commission Decision 2000/738/EC of 17 November 2000 concerning a questionnaire for Member States’ reports on the implementation of Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste [Official Journal L 298 of 25.11.2000].


Report from the Commission of 20 November 2009 on implementation of the community waste legislation Directive 2006/12/EC on waste, Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste, Directive 75/439/EEC on waste oils, Directive 86/278/EEC on sewage sludge, Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste, Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste and Directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment for the period 2004-2006 [COM(2009) 633 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. The implementation of the Directive on the landfill of waste remains highly unsatisfactory and considerable efforts need to be undertaken to improve it. Ten years after the adoption of the Directive, not all Member States report having transposed and implemented all its provisions. There are still a large number of illegal landfills, which do not have the authorisations required by EU legislation on waste. A vast majority of Member States did not meet the deadline of 16 July 2009 to ensure that all sub-standard landfills (unless specifically derogated) that existed before the introduction of the Directive complied with its requirements. Only nine Member States report having met the 2006 targets for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfills and capture of landfill gas appears insufficient.

In 2009, thirteen non-conformity cases and eleven bad application cases were pending against Member States. In response to these systemic failures of Member States to properly implement the EU waste legislation, the Commission has taken a strategic approach.

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on implementation of the Community waste legislation: Directive 75/442/EEC, Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste, Directive 75/439/EEC on waste oils, Directive 86/278/EEC on sewage sludge, Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste and Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste for the period 2001-2003 [COM(2006) 406 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Some Member States have made use of the possibility of excluding certain wastes or landfills from some provisions of the Directive (for example remote sites and underground storage). In a certain number of countries, a very high number of landfills for non-hazardous waste and for inert waste will have to be re-equipped or closed by 2009 to conform to the Directive. Most Member States have defined some criteria for wastes acceptable in landfills and prepared national strategies for reducing biodegradable waste going to landfills. The Commission has initiated infringement cases because of the numerous unauthorised landfills for failing to ensure that all operators of existing landfills had presented their conditioning plans by 16 July 2002.

Report from the Commission of 30 March 2005 on the national strategies for the reduction of biodegradable waste going to landfills pursuant to Article 5(1) of Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste [COM(2005) 105 – not published in the Official Journal]. By January 2004 the Commission had received the national strategies from twelve Member States (Ireland and Spain did not submit their strategies and Finland submitted its strategy too late to be included in the report). Belgium and the United Kingdom presented their strategies on a regional basis. The ten new Member States were also to submit their strategies after accession.

The report points out that all the strategies promote composting, recycling of paper and energy recovery. Most strategies stress the importance of using source segregated organic waste to obtain good quality compost. The level of detail of the strategies and the measures to achieve the targets vary considerably. Some Member States have chosen legally binding measures, while others have chosen voluntary measures and incentives. It is not possible to tell with any certainty from studying the strategies whether the reduction objectives will be met in those Member States which have not yet done so; however it seems that further effort must be made for the objectives to be achieved.

Last updated: 24.02.2010