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EU waste management law

EU waste management law


Directive 2008/98/EC on waste



It establishes a legal framework for treating waste in the EU. This 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.


  • The legislation establishes a waste hierarchy: prevention, re-use, 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’. This may include an onus on manufacturers to accept and dispose of products returned after use.
  • 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. They 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.


It applies from 12 December 2008. EU countries had to incorporate it into their national law by 12 December 2010.


* By-product: a result from a production process that was not the primary aim of that process. Unlike waste, it must be able to be used afterwards. The directive allows the European Commission to set criteria to be met by substances so as to differentiate by-products from waste.


Waste generation used to be an unavoidable and unfortunate by-product of economic activity and growth. With modern technology and careful husbandry, that cyclical link can be broken.


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 in the basic text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Decision 2014/955/EU of 18 December 2014 amending Decision 2000/532/EC on the list of waste pursuant to Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 370, 30.12.2014, pp. 44–86).

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). See corrigendum.

last update 24.02.2016