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Waste incineration

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Waste incineration

The European Union (EU) has introduced measures to prevent or reduce air, water and soil pollution caused by the incineration or co-incineration of waste, as well as the resulting risk to human health. These measures specifically require a permit be obtained for incineration and co-incineration plants, and emission limits for certain pollutants released to air or to water.


Directive 2000/76/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 December 2000 on the incineration of waste [See amending act(s)].


Incineration of both hazardous and harmless wastes may cause emissions of substances which pollute the air, water and soil and have harmful effects on human health. In order to limit these risks, the European Union (EU) shall impose strict operating conditions and technical requirements on waste incineration plants * and waste co-incineration plants *.


This Directive not only applies to solid or liquid waste incineration plants, but also to co-incineration plants.

Experimental plants which aim to improve the incineration process and which treat less than 50 tonnes of waste are excluded from the scope of the Directive, as are plants which only treat:

  • vegetable waste from agriculture and forestry;
  • vegetable waste from food processing, if the heat generated is recovered;
  • certain fibrous vegetable waste from pulp paper or paper production if it is co-incinerated at the place of production and the heat generated is recovered;
  • certain wood waste;
  • cork waste;
  • radioactive waste;
  • animal carcasses;
  • waste resulting from the exploration of oil and gas and incinerated on board off-shore installations.


All incineration or co-incineration plants must have a permit to carry out their activities. The permit will be issued by the competent authority on the condition that the requirements defined in this Directive are complied with. The permit specifies the categories and quantities of waste which may be treated, the plant's incineration or co-incineration capacity and the procedures for sampling and measuring air and water pollutants to be used.

Delivery and reception of waste

During delivery and reception of waste, the operator of the incineration plant or co-incineration plant shall take all necessary precautions to prevent or limit negative effects on the environment and risks to people.

Furthermore, prior to accepting hazardous waste at the incineration plant or co-incineration plant, the operator of the plant must have at their disposal the administrative information on the generating process, the physical and chemical composition of the waste, as well as on the hazardous characteristics of the waste.

The operating conditions

In order to guarantee complete waste combustion, the Directive requires all plants to keep the incineration or co-incineration gases at a temperature of at least 850°C for at least two seconds. If hazardous waste with a content of more than 1 % of halogenated organic substances, expressed as chlorine, is incinerated, the temperature has to be raised to 1 100 °C for at least two seconds.

The heat generated by the incineration process has to be put to good use as far as possible.

Air emissions limit values

The limit values for incineration plant emissions to air are set out in Annex V to the Directive. They concern heavy metals, dioxins and furans, carbon monoxide (CO), dust, total organic carbon (TOC), hydrogen chloride (HCl), hydrogen fluoride (HF), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and the nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2).

The determining of limit values for co-incineration plant emissions to air is set out in Annex II. In addition, special provisions are laid down relating to cement kilns and combustion plants which co-incinerate waste.

Water discharges from the cleaning of exhaust gases

Incineration and co-incineration plants must have a permit which authorises them to discharge used water caused by exhaust-gas clean-up. This permit will ensure that the emission limit values set out in Annex IV to the Directive are complied with.


Incineration or co-incineration residues must be reduced to a minimum and, as far as possible, recycled. When dry residues are transported, precautions must be taken to prevent their dispersal in the environment. Tests must be carried out to establish the physical and chemical characteristics, and polluting potential, of residues.

Monitoring and surveillance

The Directive requires the installation of measurement systems to monitor the parameters of an installation and relevant emissions. Emissions to air and to water must be measured continuously or periodically in accordance with Article 11 and Annex III of the Directive.

Access to information and public participation

Applications for new permits must be made accessible to the public so that the latter may comment before the competent authority reaches a decision.

For plants with a nominal capacity of two tonnes or more per hour, the operator must provide the competent authority with an annual report on the functioning and monitoring of the plant, to be made available to the public. A list of plants with a nominal capacity of less than two tonnes per hour must be drawn up by the competent authority and made available to the public.

Implementation reports

By 31 December 2008, the Commission must report to Parliament and the Council on the application of the Directive, progress achieved in emission control techniques and experience with waste management. This report has been included in the Communication COM(2007) 843 final.

Other reports on the implementation of the Directive will also be produced.


The Member States must determine the penalties applicable to breaches of the Directive.


This Directive aims to integrate into existing legislation technical progress in terms of monitoring emissions from incineration processes and to ensure compliance with the international commitments made by the Community with regard to reducing pollution, specifically concerning the setting of emissions limit values for dioxides, mercury and dust produced by waste incineration. The Directive is based on an integrated approach: limits relating to water discharges have been introduced alongside value limits set for emissions into air.

Key terms of the Act

  • Incineration plant: any stationary or mobile technical unit and equipment dedicated to the thermal treatment of wastes with or without recovery of the combustion heat generated. This includes the incineration by oxidation of waste as well as other thermal treatment processes such as pyrolysis, gasification or plasma processes in so far as the substances resulting from the treatment are subsequently incinerated.
  • Co-incineration plant: any stationary or mobile plant whose main purpose is the generation of energy or production of material products and:



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2000/76/EC



OJ L 332 of 28.12.2000

Amending act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2000/76/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) [Official Journal L 334 of 17.12.2010].

Commission Decision 2006/329/EC of 20 February 2006 laying down a questionnaire to be used for reporting on the implementation of Directive 2000/76/EC on the incineration of waste [Official Journal L 121 of 06.05.2006].

See also

Last updated: 27.10.2011