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European Commission calls for better implementation of EU waste law

European Union waste law is being poorly implemented and enforced in many Member States, according to the European Commission.

The EC has published two implementation reports (20 November) on implementation of the community waste legislation for the period 2004-2006 that highlight the need for significant efforts by Member States to ensure that waste management meets the standards set by EU legislation.

It is particularly scathing of the implementation of the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the Waste Shipment Regulation. The studies explain how the Landfill Directive remains highly unsatisfactory and how the EC receives a vast number of complaints on a daily basis relating to illegal landfills lacking the permits required by EU waste legislation. It also explains all Member States have incorporated the WFD into national law but there are still problems in some countries especially as regards the creation of complete waste management infrastructures. These countries are not mentioned in the reports.

In relation to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, illegal trade of EEE waste to non-EU countries continues to be widespread.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: Proper implementation of waste legislation is vital for the protection of our environment and health. Having legislation in place is not enough: the rules have to work in practice. Unfortunately, insufficient importance is attached to the enforcement of waste laws. The Commission receives regular complaints from citizens and the European Parliament regarding the bad management of waste.

Member States must take the implementation of waste legislation seriously. We need to manage our waste properly so that we preserve our resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the health of citizens. The Commission will step up its efforts to assist Member States in better implementation.

His comments come after the House of Lords Merit Committee criticised the Government, last week, for failing to examine whether waste legislation was achieving its intended outcome (see MRW story).

The EC claim that older Member States continue to breach European rules of waste management and state that inefficient diversion of biodegradable waste from landfills continues to contribute to climate change. It also states that some countries that joined the EU after 2004 are still heavily relying on landfilling waste, have inadequate waste treatment infrastructure and no societal habits to separate and recycle waste.

The EC maintain that there has been some success stories in waste management legislation. Over the last ten years packaging and recycling rates have increased and a landfill ban for waste tyres has increased tyre recycling to 95 per cent. Controlling hazardous substances in products such as electronics has reduced the health risks to EU citizens.

An EU Waste Implementation Agency may be created by the EC to help address the problem of inadequate implementation and enforcement deficit.

Facts from EC:
* More than 20 per cent of all environmental infringement cases are related to waste management;
* If properly implemented and enforced, EU waste legislation could reduce greenhouse gas emission by up to 30 per cent.

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