6692/97: Explanatory Memorandum by the Department of
the Environment, Transport and the Regions
Proposal for a Council Directive on the landfill of
1. The draft Council Directive on the Landfill of Waste, 97/0085
(SYN), COM(97)105 final seeks to introduce uniform standards for
the landfill of waste throughout the European Union. This Explanatory
Memorandum outlines its Proposals and their likely impact.
2. In 1991 the Commission of the European communities presented
a Proposal for a Council Directive on the Landfill of Waste. After
extensive debate, the Council adopted its Common Position in October
1995. However, in May 1996, the European Parliament rejected the
Council's Common Position. As a consequence, the Environment Council
of June 1996 requested the European Commission to submit, as soon
as possible, a new Proposal for a Council Directive, and suggested
that this Proposal should take account of the work already undertaken
and contain suitable provisions for effectively meeting the requirements
of the Framework Directive on Waste.
3. The Commission's new Proposal was published on 5 March
1997 - COM(97) 105. It takes into account developments in the
waste area as reflected in the review of the community Waste Strategy
for Waste Management of 1996. The draft Directive also takes into
account EU legislation or updated legislation adopted since the
discussion of the original Proposal.
4. Whilst much of the text of the draft Directive remains
the same as in previous versions laid before the House, significant
changes have been made to take account of the comments of the
European Parliament on the earlier Proposal and to reflect developments
in the waste management sector.
5. The two most significant changes are as follows:
-introduces provisions to reduce the landfilling
of biodegradable wastes and to ensure that the gases produced
in new and existing landfills are collected, treated and used.
It sets targets for the reduction of biodegradable municipal waste
going to landfills; by 2002 a reduction-as far as possible-to
75 per cent of the total amount of biodegradable waste (by weight)
produced in 1993; by 2005 a reduction to 50 per cent of the 1993
figure; and by 2010 a reduction to 25 per cent of that figure.
Member States are also required to put in place, within two years
of the entry into force of the Directive systems for monitoring
both the total amount of municipal waste going to landfills and
the proportion of the waste which is biodegradable.
Article 6-requires that only waste which has been subject
to treatment should be landfilled. Pre-treatment is defined as
"the physical, chemical or biological processes, including
sorting, that change the characteristics of the waste in order
to reduce its volume or hazardous nature, facilitate its handling
or enhance recovery". The precise implications are unclear.
6. Other changes include:
-Small islands with only one landfill and
isolated settlements with difficult access are exempted from some
of the provisions of the draft Directive-however, it appears that
as presently drawn this exemption has very limited application
to the UK.
Article 5-To encourage the recovery of tyres and to thus
save resources, the disposal of whole tyres and shredded tyres
to landfill will be banned.
Article 10-To restore the balance between the costs of
the landfilling of wastes and the costs of other treatment methods
this Article requires all Member States to ensure that the minimum
price to be charged by all public and private landfill operators
for the disposal of any type of waste in landfill shall include,
amongst other things the estimated costs of the closure and after
care of the site for a period of at least 50 years.
Article 14-For existing landfills the provisions have been
made stricter. A conditioning plan will now need to be presented
within three years after the entry into force of the Directive
and the plan is to be implemented five years after that date.
7. Earlier versions of a draft landfill Directive were laid
before the House with an Explanatory Memorandum on 16 July 1993
and a supplementary Memorandum on 10 January 1994-Reference 7506/93
COM (93)275 final. Both were cleared by the House of Lords Select
Committee on the European Communities Sub-Committee C on 19 April
8. The Commission reviewed its Community Waste Strategy for
Waste Management in 1996. A review document was laid before Parliamentary
Scrutiny committees as EM 9651/96 on 23 October 1996 (COM(96)
399 final) and was debated by Standing Committee A on 20 November
1996. It was cleared by the House of Lords Select Committee on
the European Communities on 24 October 1996.
9. The Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for the
Environment, Transport and the Regions has lead responsibility.
The appropriate Secretary of State has responsibility for waste
policy in Northern Ireland, in Scotland and in Wales. The President
of the Board of Trade also has an interest.
LEGAL AND PROCEDURAL ISSUES
|10||(i)||Legal base: Article 130s(1) of the Treaty.
||European Parliament procedure: The co-operation procedure applies.
||Voting Procedures: The Council will act by qualified majority voting (QMV).
||Impact on UK Legislation-Waste disposal in Great Britain is controlled by the Control of Pollution Act 1974, The Environment Protectional Act 1990, and the Environment Act 1995. Operators of landfill sites must obtain a waste management licence under the waste management licensing system set up under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
|Legislation will be required to implement certain provisions of the draft Directive, in particular to put the pre-treatment of wastes and the target for the reduction of the biodegradability of municipal waste onto a more formal statutory footing.
11. The Commission believes that the Proposal
is compatible with the principle of subsidiarity. It seeks to
introduce uniform standards for landfilling throughout the Union.
Different national standards would not only increase the present
divergence in environmental standards between certain regions
of the Community but could also stimulate increased shipments
12. The introduction of limits for landfilling
of biodegradable waste represents, in the Commission's view, a
high level of respect for the principle of subsidiarity. The provision
allows Member States to take account of local conditions in reducing
the amount of biodegradable waste landfilled and will therefore
allow Member States flexibility in achieving the targets.
13. The Government is, however, concerned that
the Proposal for limits on the amount of biodegradable municipal
waste landfilled itself is unnecessarily restrictive of Member
States' freedom to continue the development of their own approaches
to reducing methane emissions from landfill.
CONSULTATIONS WITH INTERESTED PARTIES
14. The Department of the Environment, Transport, and the
regions has undertaken consultations on the proposal with other
Government Departments, the Local Authority Associations, industry
and professional bodies. Their comments, and those received following
a planned wider public consultation, will be taken into account
in developing the Government's negotiating position.
15. The Department has established a liaison group with representatives
of lead organisations, including the CBI, the Environmental Services
Association and the Institute of Wastes Management, in order to
solicit their views and keep them informed of the progress of
16. The Government supports the draft directive's main objectives:
the stringent application of high environmental standards across
Europe, and a reduction in methane emissions from landfill sites.
However, some of its proposals do not show sufficient regard for
subsidiarity, or for the need for Member States to adopt their
own, environmentally sustainable, waste management systems, in
the light of their own national circumstances.
17. At present over 80 per cent of waste in the UK is landfilled;
among the highest proportions within the EU. Landfill is already
closely regulated under existing UK and EU legislation, and there
should therefore unlikely be a need for significant changes to
regulatory practice as a result of the Directive. However, requirements
under articles 5 and 6 in the draft for a reduction in the amount
of biodegradable waste landfilled, and for the pre-treatment of
all wastes landfilled, would require significant changes from
existing UK waste management practice. It is of particular concern,
therefore, that there has been no detailed assessment by the Commission
of cost implications for those Member States which, like the UK,
have at present a heavy reliance on landfill as a means of disposal.
18. The Government is concerned that the directive does not
make sufficient allowance for the scope for safe, well-managed
landfill, with methane collection. The proposed limits on biodegradable
waste imply a substantial shift away from landfill in the UK,
and towards other options for waste management, such as incineration
and recycling. While the government is keen to encourage a move
in waste managements practice away from disposal, and towards
recycling and recovery, it is concerned that the scale of change
necessary to meet the proposed targets and the tight timetable
in which to achieve it could result in less satisfactory solutions
being adopted, and hamper progress towards fully sustainable solutions.
19. The Government will therefore argue that article 5 should
focus more on the shared objective of reduction of greenhouse
gas emissions, and less on prescribing detailed means to achieve
that end. The Government will also be keen to ensure that the
rules on landfill management are stringent and are evenly applied.
COMPLIANCE COST ASSESSMENT
20. A compliance cost assessment is attached at Annex A. Initial
estimates, based on the currently cheapest method of meeting the
targets for reduction of biodegradable waste (incineration with
energy recovery), suggest that investment of between £3bn
and £7bn would be needed.
21. There are no major financial implications for the Community
or for its institutions. There is a requirement on the Commission
to collect information from the Member States and to publish a
summary (article 15).
23. The draft Directive was briefly presented by the Commission
at the June Environment Council meeting and discussions will be
taken forward under the Luxembourg Presidency.
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
23 July 1977