EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

EU waste management law

EU waste management law



Directive 2008/98/EC on waste and repealing certain Directives


  • It establishes a legal framework for treating waste in the European Union (EU).
  • The framework is designed to protect the environment and human health by emphasising the importance of proper waste management, recovery and recycling techniques to reduce pressure on resources and improve their use.


Directive 2008/98/EC

  • The directive establishes a waste hierarchy:
    • prevention;
    • reuse;
    • recycling;
    • recovery for other purposes, such as energy; and
    • disposal.
  • It confirms the ‘polluter-pays principle’ whereby the original waste producer must pay for the costs of waste management.
  • It introduces the concept of ‘extended producer responsibility’.
  • It makes a distinction between waste and by-products*.
  • Waste management must be carried out without any risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals, without causing a nuisance through noise or smells, or harming the countryside or places of special interest.
  • Producers or holders of waste must treat it themselves or have it handled by an officially recognised operator. Both require a permit and are inspected periodically.
  • Competent national authorities must establish waste-management plans and waste-prevention programmes.
  • Special conditions apply to hazardous waste, waste oils and bio-waste.
  • It introduces recycling and recovery targets to be achieved by 2020 for household waste (50%) and construction and demolition waste (70%).
  • The legislation does not cover certain types of waste such as radioactive elements, decommissioned explosives, faecal matter, waste waters and animal carcasses.

Amending Directive (EU) 2018/851

  • As part of a package of measures on the circular economy, Directive (EU) 2018/851 amends Directive 2008/98/EC.
  • It sets minimum operating requirements for extended producer-responsibility schemes*. These can also include organisational responsibility and a responsibility to contribute to waste prevention and to the reusability and recyclability of products.
  • It strengthens rules on waste prevention. On waste generation, EU Member States must take measures to:
    • support sustainable production and consumption models;
    • encourage the design, manufacturing and use of products that are resource efficient, durable, reparable, reusable and capable of being upgraded;
    • target products containing critical raw materials to prevent those materials becoming waste;
    • encourage the availability of spare parts, instruction manuals, technical information, or other means enabling the repair and re-use of products without compromising their quality and safety;
    • reduce food-waste generation as a contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to reduce by 50% the per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and to reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030;
    • promote the reduction of the content of hazardous substances in materials and products;
    • stop the generation of marine litter.
  • It also sets new municipal-waste-recycling targets: by 2025, at least 55% of municipal waste by weight will have to be recycled. This target will rise to 60% by 2030 and 65% by 2035.
  • Member States must:
    • establish, by 1 January 2025, separate collection of textiles and hazardous waste generated by households;
    • ensure that, by 31 December 2023, bio-waste is collected separately or recycled at source (for example, by composting).
  • The directive also highlights examples of incentives to apply the waste hierarchy, such as landfill and incineration charges and pay-as-you-throw schemes.


  • Directive 2008/98/EC had to become law in the Member States by 12 December 2010.
  • Amending Directive (EU) 2018/851 had to become law in the Member States by 5 July 2020.


  • Waste generation used to be an unavoidable and unfortunate by-product of economic activity and growth. With modern technology and careful management, that cyclical link can be broken.
  • For more information, see:


By-product. A substance or object resulting from a production process the primary aim of which is not the production of that substance or object. The directive sets conditions under which such a substance or object is not to be considered waste.
Extended producer-responsibility schemes. A set of measures taken by Member States to ensure that producers of products bear financial responsibility or financial and organisational responsibility for the management of the waste stage of a product’s life cycle.


Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (OJ L 312, 22.11.2008, pp. 3–30).

Successive amendments to Directive 2008/98/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/19 of 18 December 2020 laying down a common methodology and a format for reporting on reuse in accordance with Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 10, 12.1.2021, pp. 1–7).

Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/1004 of 7 June 2019 laying down rules for the calculation, verification and reporting of data on waste in accordance with Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and repealing Commission Implementing Decision C(2012) 2384 (OJ L 163, 20.6.2019, pp. 66–100).

Commission Delegated Decision (EU) 2019/1597 of 3 May 2019 supplementing Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards a common methodology and minimum quality requirements for the uniform measurement of levels of food waste (OJ L 248, 27.9.2019, pp. 77–85).

Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/2000 of 28 November 2019 laying down a format for reporting of data on food waste and for submission of the quality check report in accordance with Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 310, 2.12.2019, pp. 39–45).

Commission Directive (EU) 2015/1127 of 10 July 2015 amending Annex II to Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on waste and repealing certain Directives (OJ L 184, 11.7.2015, pp. 13–15).

Commission Decision 2000/532/EC of 3 May 2000 replacing Decision 94/3/EC establishing a list of wastes pursuant to Article 1(a) of Council Directive 75/442/EEC on waste and Council Decision 94/904/EC establishing a list of hazardous waste pursuant to Article 1(4) of Council Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste (OJ L 226, 6.9.2000, pp. 3–24).

See consolidated version.

last update 22.06.2020