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Document 52012IP0026

Application of waste management directive European Parliament resolution of 2 February 2012 on the issues raised by petitioners in relation to the application of the Waste Management Directive, and related directives, in the Member States of the European Union (2011/2038(INI))

OJ C 239E , 20.8.2013, p. 60–69 (BG, ES, CS, DA, DE, ET, EL, EN, FR, IT, LV, LT, HU, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SK, SL, FI, SV)



Official Journal of the European Union

CE 239/60

Thursday 2 February 2012
Application of waste management directive


European Parliament resolution of 2 February 2012 on the issues raised by petitioners in relation to the application of the Waste Management Directive, and related directives, in the Member States of the European Union (2011/2038(INI))

2013/C 239 E/10

The European Parliament,

having regard to the right of petition enshrined in Article 227 TFEU;

having regard to the petitions received and contained in the annex of the report of the Committee on Petitions (A7-0335/2011);

having regard to Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (1);

having regard to Directive 2008/99/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on the protection of the environment through criminal law (2);

having regard to Council Directive 1999/31/EC of 26 April 1999 on the landfill of waste (3);

having regard to Directive 2000/76/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 4 December 2000 on the incineration of waste (4);

having regard to Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (SEA) (5);

having regard to Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003 on public access to environmental information and repealing Council Directive 90/313/EEC (6);

having regard to Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003 providing for public participation in respect of the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice Council Directives 85/337/EEC and 96/61/EC (7) (EIA);

having regard to the Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus, Denmark, 25 June 1998);

having regard to the expert study ‘Waste management in Europe: main problems and best practices’ of July 2011;

having regard to Rule 202(2) of its Rules of Procedure;

having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A7-0335/2011);


whereas the Committee on Petitions has received and declared admissible 114 petitions over the period 2004-2010 alleging breaches of this regulatory framework from the following Member States: Italy, Greece, France, Spain, Ireland (over 10 petitions each), Bulgaria, the UK, Poland, Romania, Germany (3-10 petitions each), Austria, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia (1 petition each);


whereas the Committee on Petitions has drafted five reports on fact-finding visits related to petitions on waste to Ireland (8), Fos-sur-Mer (France) (9), Path Head landfill (UK) (10), Campania (Italy) (11) and Huelva (Spain) (12);


whereas petitions on environmental issues consistently constitute the primary group of petitions received and those on waste represent an important sub-group, and whereas concern about waste affects citizens very directly throughout the EU, notably as regards the permitting procedure for new waste management facilities or the operation of existing ones, followed by concerns about the overall management of waste;


whereas a large majority of petitions on waste concern waste management facilities, with about 40% concerning the permitting procedure for planned new plants and another 40% referring to the operation of existing ones, of which 75% concern landfills and 25% concern incinerators, while the remaining petitions raise problems of overall waste management;


whereas the most recent figures from Eurostat (2009) show that EU citizens produce on average 513 kg of waste per year, with many new Member States well below the average and the most industrialised countries in the lead;


whereas those countries which produce the most waste show the highest rates for recycling, composting and incineration of waste for energy, while approaching or having reached zero for landfilling, whilst by contrast, those Member States which produce the least average waste are at the top of the league for landfilling and show much lower rates of recycling and even incineration;


whereas some incinerators suffer from a lack of appropriate infrastructure for the separation and treatment of waste; whereas there do not appear to be clear limits for the kind of waste incinerated and concerns remain over the fate of toxic ash resulting from incineration;


whereas Directive 2008/98/EC on Waste (the Waste Framework Directive (WFD)) lays down rules designed to protect the environment and human health by preventing or reducing the adverse impacts of the generation and management of waste and by reducing overall impacts of resource use and improving the efficiency of such use, providing benefits to EU citizens in terms of health and well-being while at the same time achieving an environmentally sustainable method of waste disposal;


whereas Directive 2008/99/EC on the protection of the environment through criminal law defines a minimum number of serious environment-related offences and requires Member States to provide for more dissuasive criminal penalties for this type of offence when committed intentionally or as a result of gross negligence;


whereas a waste management strategy in compliance with the WFD has to guarantee that all waste is collected and directed to a network of appropriate waste treatment plants for recovery and ultimately disposal, which must include measures to reduce waste generation at source;


whereas in some regions, such as Fos-sur-Mer (France – 2008), Path Head (UK – 2009), Huelva (Spain – 2009) and Campania (Italy – 2011), the progress made in relation to waste reduction and recycling of household waste has been minimal, and whereas household and other waste has continued to be taken indiscriminately to landfills, in some cases apparently mixed with different types of industrial waste;


whereas the deadline for transposition of the WFD was December 2010, yet only six Member States complied, and the Commission is taking active measures to ensure that the remainder complete transposition and begin implementation urgently;


whereas household waste should be managed in compliance with the waste hierarchy, which is built on prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling, recovery (e.g. energy) and disposal, in accordance with Article 4 of the WFD;


whereas a resource-efficient Europe is one of the flagship targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the WFD introduced a 50% target for recycling of municipal waste, to be met by 2020 in all Member States, recognising that developing the EU into a circular and green economy that uses waste as a resource is an important element of the resource efficiency goal;


whereas there are several reasons why waste management plans in compliance with the WFD are not in place: these include a lack of implementation and enforcement, properly trained personnel at local and regional level and coordination at national level; insufficient controls at EU level, failure to allocate adequate resources and the lack of a fine system, thereby neglecting the opportunities of good waste management to reduce GHG emissions and other environmental impacts and for reducing Europe’s dependency on imported raw materials;


whereas an important factor, often neglected, is that the recycling industry offers the potential of up to half a million jobs, as certain types of waste constitute a productive resource which can contribute to enhancing environmental sustainability and to the move towards a green economy;


whereas biowaste management in the EU is still in its relative infancy and the current legislative instruments need to be developed and techniques made more efficient;


whereas compliance with EU targets for collection, recycling and landfill diversion must remain a priority;


whereas the Member States – at national, regional and local level – bear the main responsibility for implementing EU legislation, and whereas the EU is held responsible by citizens for ensuring implementation of waste policy but does not have the adequate means to enforce the legislation;


whereas, according to the Aarhus Convention, citizens have the right to be informed of the situation in their own territory and it is the duty of the authorities to provide information and to motivate citizens to develop a responsible attitude and behaviour; whereas, in accordance with Directive 2003/35/EC, Member States shall ensure that the public is given early and effective opportunities to participate in the preparation and modification or review of the plans or programmes required to be drawn up;


whereas, through the petitions process, citizens express a feeling that the public authorities are not in control of the situation and are sometimes not prepared to make the efforts required to contribute to solutions, the relationship of trust is damaged and there is a downhill slide towards open confrontation and paralysis, thereby preventing action;


whereas a recent study (13) conducted for the Commission to explore the feasibility of creating an EU Waste Management Agency highlighted the fact that many Member States lack sufficient capacity for preparing waste management plans and for inspections, controls and other actions to enforce waste legislation properly;


whereas the study also identifies a high level of non-compliance, illegal waste dumping and shipments, large numbers of complaints from citizens and infringement cases before the ECJ, and therefore underachievement in protecting public health and the environment, an overarching goal of EU waste legislation;


whereas illegal waste disposal has also become part of the activities of organised crime, which raises questions about the role of the authorities responsible and, in respect of industrial waste, of industry collusion;


whereas monitoring and control procedures in place to ensure that household waste is not contaminated by toxic waste are sometimes weak or non-existent, leading to contamination of landfills and incinerators; whereas it must be stressed that disposing of toxic waste through incineration in installations conceived for burning household waste is categorically prohibited;


whereas an in-depth analysis of the petitions confirms that the legislation for a functioning and environmentally sound waste management system is largely in place and that the main issues concern implementation and enforcement, with 95% of the petitions related to failure at the local or regional level of government;


whereas one of the crucial factors identified for this state of affairs is a lack of information, awareness, administrative capacity and financial and other resources at local level;


whereas the Commission has stepped up support – including EUR 4,1 billion in 2005/2006 – to improve implementation and enforcement of the EU waste acquis at national level; whereas, at the end of 2009, infringement cases related to waste nevertheless constituted 20% of all environmental infringements;


whereas the cost of bad waste management is high and a regional system capable of completing the whole cycle would produce substantial savings;


whereas, while the implementation of waste legislation in the EU is a public responsibility, private and multinational companies deal with 60% of household waste and 75% of waste from businesses, with an annual turnover of EUR 75 billion (14);


whereas the establishment of new landfills and incinerators falls under Annex I.9 of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (15), requiring an EIA under Article 4(1) or at least screening according to Article 4(2) if the landfill falls under Annex II11.b;


whereas permits for landfills fall under Annex II of the EIA Directive if they are ‘likely to have significant effects on the environment’ and subject to threshold criteria set by the Member States;


whereas Article 6(4) of the EIA Directive lays down that ‘The public concerned shall be given early and effective opportunities to participate in the environmental decision-making procedures referred to in Article 2(2) and shall, for that purpose, be entitled to express comments and opinions when all options are open to the competent authority or authorities before the decision on the request for development consent is taken’;


whereas EU Directives and the Aarhus Convention make specific reference to access to information and public participation in decision-making in environmental matters;


whereas many petitions allege that the permitting procedure for waste management facilities was not fully in line with EU legislation, especially as regards the EIA and public consultation;


whereas, if permits are in compliance with the parameters set out in the directive and the EIA has been conducted, the Commission does not have the power to interfere with decisions taken by national authorities; whereas, however, some Member States have not conducted thorough EIAs before granting permits for opening or expanding landfills or building incinerators;


whereas legal proceedings can only be launched once a project has been approved by the Member States; whereas it is hard for citizens to understand that the EU cannot effectively intervene until the whole procedure has been concluded and the project has been approved by the Member States;


whereas the questions raised by citizens during the public consultation process and the Environmental Impact Assessment on planned locations for new landfills often concern alleged violations of protected areas, as in the case of the landfill in the Vesuvius national park, or fears over a negative impact on health and well-being;


whereas planned locations for new landfills are contested because petitioners feel that they encroach on environmentally or culturally protected zones, as illustrated by petitions concerning a plan to open a new landfill in the Vesuvius National Park, and whereas it takes the view that siting landfills in areas belonging to the Natura 2000 network should be considered incompatible with EU environmental law;


whereas the Landfill Directive lays down the parameters for granting operating permits and for common monitoring procedures during the operation and after-care phases and whereas landfills closed before transposition of the Directive are not subject to its provisions; whereas the criteria enumerated in the Directive refer to location, water control and leachate management, protection of soil and water, gas control, nuisances and hazards, stability and barriers;


whereas the Committee on Petitions has received several petitions – notably the one which gave rise to the fact-finding mission to Path Head (UK) – which concerned landfills in close proximity to the nearest houses and where the population suffers noxious odours, increased air pollution and propagation of vermin close to their houses; whereas, however, as more precise criteria concerning the proximity of landfill sites to homes, schools and hospitals have not been laid down in EU law, the definition of the precise requirements to ensure the protection of human health and the environment are subject to the subsidiarity principle enshrined in the Treaties;


whereas petitions on landfills have frequently expressed concerns related to possible groundwater pollution, because older landfills may not have a liner preventing seepage into aquifers or the liners may look torn and create the suspicion of seepage or be on geologically unstable ground and too close to groundwater/drinking water reserves;


whereas the Commission reports that 177 infringements of the Landfill Directive have been initiated since 2001 and that a recent inventory identified a minimum of 619 illegal landfills across the EU;


whereas petitions and complaints to the Commission testify to the presence of a large number of illegal landfills operating without permits, though the exact number is unknown for lack of adequate monitoring;


whereas it is recalled that landfilling should be a solution of last resort; whereas public authorities in some Member States which have fallen behind with waste prevention, recycling and reuse may be under pressure to expand existing – even non-compliant – landfills or open new ones in the short term as a method for eliminating refuse;


whereas the use of incinerators, which is low in the waste hierarchy, is well established and accepted by citizens in some countries considered to have reached a high level of compliance with the WFD and which recover energy in the process, and whereas countries which so far have not resorted to incineration may choose to do so in order to deal with accumulated backlogs;


whereas this can only be done on condition of strict control and respect for the relevant EU legislation and bearing in mind that such measures are likely to provoke understandable resistance from the most immediately affected populations in the vicinity, who are concerned about effects on their health;


whereas it should be acknowledged that more recent technology has reduced emissions from incinerators significantly; whereas in certain Member States – in particular those with high levels of waste incineration – local populations seem to show a higher level of acceptance, perhaps in recognition of the production of heat or power by incinerators, and also because of the transparency and accessibility of information on their functioning;


whereas permits for the establishment of incinerators meet with similar resistance, for similar reasons, to landfills, with the emphasis on fears of air pollution and negative impact on public health and/or environmentally protected zones;


whereas public authorities often choose areas already suffering from heavy air pollution for the establishment of incinerators, cumulative effects on the health of the inhabitants of the area should not be ignored and exploration of alternative methods of disposal of waste and production of energy through methanisation is often neglected;


whereas a focus on incineration for energy production as a first choice nevertheless represents a more wasteful method of waste management than prevention, recycling and reuse, which is why these should be given priority, in accordance with the waste hierarchy of the WFD;


whereas what is required in order to meet legally established recycling and prevention targets is the active participation of civil society, improved stakeholder participation and increased public awareness, to be achieved through media campaigns to raise public awareness;


whereas all the reports on fact-finding missions of the Committee on Petitions on waste issues mention the poor or non-existent communication between citizens and authorities, which in some cases can lead to tense situations arising and also demonstrations by citizens, as often reported in the press;


whereas the world population is growing and therefore the total consumption is expected to increase significantly, which puts more pressure on waste management; whereas the solution to this problem would require, among other things, an increased awareness and implementation of the waste hierarchy principle;


whereas the Committee on Petitions has no preventive or judicial competence, but is able to defend citizens’ interests, notably when problems arise in the application of EU law, by cooperating with the responsible authorities to find solutions or explanations for the matters raised by petitions;


Calls on the Member States to transpose the WFD without further delay and to ensure full compliance with all its requirements, in particular establishing and implementing comprehensive waste management plans, including the timely conversion of all the set goals within the framework of European legislation;


Calls on the Commission to carefully monitor the transposition by the Member States of the EU directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law, to ensure that it is done promptly and effectively; calls on the Commission to turn its attention to the role of all forms of organised crime in respect of environmental offences;


Taking into consideration the fact that waste and pollution form a serious threat to human health and the integrity of the environment, urges the Member States to speed up the introduction of an advanced waste management strategy in accordance with the WFD;


Calls upon public authorities to recognise that major investments are required to establish correct waste management strategies, infrastructure and facilities in most Member States, and believes that they should give consideration to earmarking an appropriate proportion of Cohesion Fund resources for this purpose or seeking direct financing from the European Investment Bank;


Considers that on-site inspection and enforcement capacity needs to be strengthened at Member State and EU level in order to ensure better compliance with waste legislation and therefore urges Member States to strengthen their capacity for inspections, monitoring and other actions at all stages of the waste management chain to better enforce waste legislation, and calls on the Commission to make provision for specific procedures enabling the subsidiarity principle to be fully applied in the event of serious shortcomings on the part of Member States;


Calls on the Commission for more specific guidance to be provided for competent authorities in order to assist them with the correct implementation of the waste acquis but notes that the resources available at European level are currently inadequate; considers, therefore, that complementary financial and administrative measures should be taken to provide better guidance and training facilities for officials working in the waste sector;


Calls upon the Commission to identify and focus on the more systemic weaknesses in the implementation of waste-related directives by the Member States, such as inadequate networks of waste management facilities, excessive reliance on land filling, growing amounts of waste produced per capita or poor recycling rates;


Believes that the establishment of a new EU Agency for waste management is not desirable and considers that the present institutional structure at EU level – based upon the Commission’s DG Environment and the European Environment Agency as a centre of expertise and excellence – is more cost-effective, although these must be further reinforced in order to provide more active oversight and enforcement;


Believes that the existing European Environment Agency could assist with this process and play a more constructive role in reporting on Member State waste management strategies and identifying weakness by assessing the compliance of waste management plans established by Member States with EU legislation;


Considers that closer cooperation between authorities at local, regional and national level has the potential to deliver positive results in terms of identifying models of best practice; notes that the Committee of the Regions, Europol, the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law, Municipal Waste Europe and the FEAD, the European Federation representing the waste management industry, could play a more useful role in organising such exchanges and thus also help to build trust among the populations affected by essential waste policy implementation;


Calls on the Member States which are confronted with manifest waste crises to consider the fact that more efficient waste management strategies provide opportunities for both employment creation and revenue enhancement while ensuring environmental sustainability through reuse, recycling and recovery of energy from waste;


Recalls that the waste cycle hierarchy is a key element in Directive 2008/98/EC and, pursuant to the directive, should constitute the basis for all waste management; notes also that economic arguments speak in favour of following the waste hierarchy and focus first on prevention, then on reuse and recycling before incineration for energy and that wasteful and unsustainable landfills should be avoided as far as possible;


Urges the Commission and the Member States to promote, in this context, greater environmental awareness among the population about the advantages of efficient waste management, notably by advising them of the merits of pre-sorting waste and the real cost of collecting household waste, as well as of the financial gain obtained from recovering this household waste;


Believes that closer cooperation between Member State authorities and the Petitions Committee when the latter is dealing with the direct concerns of local citizens would provide an excellent opportunity to facilitate dialogue between the responsible authorities and local communities on priorities as regards the implementation of waste strategies, and can in some cases constitute an effective remedy when this may be useful in resolving local disputes;


Proposes that a common EU standard for colour-coding categories of waste for sorting and recycling be agreed so as to facilitate and improve citizens’ participation in and understanding of the waste process, and considers that this may assist Member States’ efforts to increase recycling rates significantly and quickly;


Encourages early and effective dialogue between responsible local and regional authorities and local citizens in the planning stages before decisions are taken on the construction of waste treatment installations, while understanding that the NIMBY (‘not in my back yard’) attitude is a big challenge in this respect;


Emphasises the fundamental importance of the correct and full implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and proper coordination of the permitting procedures required under environmental legislation;


Calls upon the Member States to ensure that a complete environmental impact assessment is conducted before any decision is taken to establish or construct a new waste facility, notably an incinerator or methanisation plant, or – as a last resort – a new landfill; believes that such assessments should be mandatory;


Understands that in some cases urgent decisions are required to manage acute waste crises or to prevent crises developing, but emphasises that even in these cases, full respect for existing EU legislation must be guaranteed, particularly as the long-term health and well-being of local communities is at stake;


Is convinced that dialogue between public authorities, private-sector operators and affected populations must be improved and that citizens must have better access to objective information, with more effective mechanisms for administrative and judicial reviews where these are necessary;


Urges the Commission to support and reinforce the public-private partnership network for projects of the awareness campaigns; calls for support for the ‘clean up the world’ campaign, for which over 400 MEPs have signed a written declaration supporting the event, which is expected to be supported by millions of volunteers next year;


Considers that petitioners could be encouraged to make full use of such mechanisms where they exist, which may be more effective and expedient than measures at EU level, particularly where individual waste facilities are concerned;


Urges the Commission to propose clearer and more specific criteria for the location of landfills in relation to local housing, schools or health facilities in order to ensure more robust guarantees against potential risks to human health and the environment, bearing in mind that there are a large number of variables and local considerations that need to be taken into account. with full respect for the subsidiarity principle;


Recommends that Member States authorities work together, especially when planning waste treatment plants in border areas, and ensure that cross-border impact assessments are conducted which take into account information of importance to all citizens and interested parties;


Encourages the Commission to fully recognise the linkage of effective environmental legislation regarding historical heritage sites and the conservation and promotion of biodiversity – such as that contained in the Water Framework Directive and the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives – with the EIA and Strategic Environmental Assessment Directives and with legislation regarding the management of waste;


Encourages the Commission, where it is the competent authority, to ensure compliance with procedural requirements under EU law (Environmental Impact Assessment, public consultation), including requirements under the Directives for the protection of nature and historical heritage sites;


Considers that only officially accredited landfill sites, compatible with the EU Landfill Directive and with duly established permits, should be used, and that their location should be clearly indicated and recorded, while all other landfill sites and discharges must be declared illegal, effectively closed, secured and rehabilitated and their immediate and surrounding environment effectively monitored for any potential negative consequences;


Considers that a public and clear definition of waste acceptance criteria is necessary, as well as the establishment of an effective tracking system for – especially hazardous – waste to ensure that only appropriate waste is transported to, and disposed of, in landfills or incinerators; believes that regular unannounced sampling and testing procedures should be applied consistently in all Member States;


Considers that more emphasis must be placed on the recovery of organic waste, especially in broadly agricultural regions, something which seems to have received little attention so far;


Urges that common criteria for the measurement of key emission values from incinerator plants be established and that measurements be available on-line in real time for public consultation, in order to establish trust within local communities and also to provide an effective alarm system in case of anomalies developing;


Reminds the Member States that, even when issues arise at local or regional levels of government, they are responsible for the effective monitoring and supervision of compliance with all EU standards and permits and encourages them to ensure adequate and competent staffing to perform this function, including frequent on-site inspections;


Notes that urgent attention is needed as regards the open and illegal dumping of mixed and unidentified waste and calls for the enforcement of strict management controls; reminds the competent authorities that, in full conformity with the IPPC Directive (2008/1/EC, revised by Directive 2010/75/EU), they must establish strict control over the handling of specific types of industrial waste, regardless of its origin, and calls on the Commission to do the utmost within its competence to monitor the competent authorities in effectively ensuring that waste is properly collected, separated and treated, for instance through systematic inspections, and that a credible plan is presented by regional authorities;


Invites all Member States to take measures to foster greater acceptance by populations in the vicinity of existing or planned waste management facilities, by demonstrating that the permitting and operating authorities are respecting the rules correctly and in full transparency;


Recommends the imposition of adequate and dissuasive fines and penalties for the illegal disposal of waste, especially toxic and hazardous waste, partly to compensate for environmental damage in accordance with the polluter-pays principle; believes that illegal dumping in the countryside of highly contaminated chemical or radioactive waste should be punished with very severe sentences commensurate with the dangers this practice poses for people and the environment;


Calls for effective measures to combat any infiltration of waste management by organised crime and against any connections between organised crime and industry or public authorities;


Recommends that, if public funds are allocated to private enterprises to manage waste processing, effective financial monitoring over the use of these funds should be put in place by local and/or national authorities to guarantee legal compliance with EU rules;


Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1)  OJ L 312, 22.11.2008, p. 3.

(2)  OJ L 328, 6.12.2008, p. 28.

(3)  OJ L 182, 16.7.1999, p. 1.

(4)  OJ L 332, 28.12.2000, p. 91.

(5)  OJ L 197, 21.7.2001, p. 30.

(6)  OJ L 41, 14.2.2003, p. 26.

(7)  OJ L 156, 25.6.2003, p. 17.

(8)  DT 682330.

(9)  DT 745784.

(10)  DT 778722.

(11)  DT 833560 + B7-0073/2011.

(12)  DT 820406.

(13)  Study on the feasibility of the establishment of a Waste Implementation Agency, revised final report, 7 December 2009.

(14)  FEAD ‘Brussels Declaration’, 15 February 2011.

(15)  85/337/EEC.