New EU waste incineration law agreed

Parliament drops PVC-unfriendly requirement in return for tighter NOx limit on cement kilns

EU governments and the European Parliament have reached a conciliation agreement on the revision of the waste incineration directive. Once implemented, the new law should achieve big cuts in air emissions of several pollutants. It will also impose the first ever controls on incinerator emissions to water and all emissions from coincineration plants. The new directive will take the place of three old ones and will cover both hazardous and non-hazardous waste.

The agreement was reached after the parliament dropped a demand for highly chlorinated wastes to be incinerated at higher temperatures than normally feasible in most EU waste incinerators. The requirement would have increased treatment costs by forcing such wastes to be separated out and was seen as an attack on PVC in the domestic waste stream. Under the agreement, it will now apply only to official EU hazardous wastes - thus exempting PVC.

In return, the parliament won a concession on nitrogen oxides emission limits for cement kilns coincinerating wastes as fuel. The limit for new kilns will be set at 500 mg/m3 and not 800 mg/m3 as governments had wanted (ENDS Daily 15 March). Limits for old kilns will be set at 800 mg/m3. But a temporary limit of 1200 mg/m3 for "wet-process" and small kilns will last until 2008 and not, as the parliament had wanted, a year earlier.

The European Commission welcomed the agreement yesterday. It said incineration-derived emissions of dioxins and furans "should" now fall from 1,500 grams annually to just 11 by 2005. Cadmium emissions are expected to drop from 16 tonnes to 1 in the ten years to 2005 and mercury emissions from 36 tonnes to 7 over the same period, it said.

In other changes to the common position agreed by ministers last year (ENDS Daily 25 June 1999), pulp and paper mills coincinerating their own waste will be exempt from the directive as long as they recover energy from the process. The food processing industry waste will also be exempt from controls provided the heat is recovered, but will not have to be incinerated on site. Emission monitoring requirements have been tightened for all installations, and plants will have to publish their results.

Most of the directive's provisions are likely to enter into force in early 2003 for new plants and early 2006 for existing plants.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111; Conciliation committee secretariat.

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