US firms urge greater EU waste harmonisation

American chamber of commerce says common rules needed to prevent separate national waste definitions

A lack of harmonised EU rules on waste classification is hurting businesses by imposing extra costs and creating uncertainty in the market, according to a group of American companies operating in the EU. In a position paper on the EU's waste lists, the EU committee of the American chamber of commerce says the bloc should introduce harmonised rules on waste testing and more scientific criteria for designating waste as hazardous.

The committee's main complaint is that some member states classify certain wastes as hazardous even when they do not feature in the EU's official hazardous waste list (HWL). This means that extra controls have to be applied to treatment and shipment of the wastes. If the practice continues, the committee says, "the credibility and authoritative character of the HWL will be undermined." The situation already "gives rise to legal and factual uncertainties," it says.

The committee says the problem could be solved by introducing a "science-based approach" to waste testing. Although waste can only be deemed hazardous if it displays at least one of a list of properties set out in a 1991 directive, the committee says member state practices diverge so greatly that different classifications emerge.

Often wastes are put on the hazardous list without justification and industry is forced to "bear the burden of proving, through expensive testing, that the waste is not hazardous. The EU needs a common set of test methods to classify the waste in the first place, it concludes.

The statement follows a recent landmark European Court judgement confirming that EU member states are free to designate non-listed wastes as hazardous on their own territory, thus creating their own national list (ENDS Daily 27 June). The ruling was a setback for the European Commission, which argued that maintaining a single harmonised EU list of hazardous wastes was the best way to guarantee a high level of environmental protection.

* In a separate position paper on recent European Commission proposals for a climate change strategy (ENDS Daily 8 March), the committee warns the EU not to raise ecotaxes to solve global warming. "The [committee] believes that additional taxation has never been a long-term effective instrument as it hurts industrial competitiveness in the short-term and may discourage investments in greenhouse gas emission reduction projects." Energy taxes "do not deliver the promised environmental improvements," it claims.

Follow Up:
EU Committee, tel: +32 2 513 6892, and position papers on EU waste lists and climate change.

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