EU waste incineration directives to be unified

Wide support for MEP's proposal to fuse laws on burning hazardous, non-hazardous wastes

The European Union legislative institutions look set to create a single EU directive limiting pollution from all types of waste incineration - including hazardous and non-hazardous wastes.

Currently, emissions from hazardous and non-hazardous waste incineration are governed under separate EU directives, but there is growing support within the European Parliament and Council of Ministers to unify the legislation over the coming months.

The impetus for change has come from independent Dutch MEP Hans Blokland who is about to present a report on a proposed revision of existing non-hazardous waste legislation. The plan, which the Commission put forward last year, sets out much stricter limit values for pollution such as dioxins from non-hazardous waste, bringing them broadly into line with limits set for hazardous waste (ENDS Daily 8 October 1998).

When he presents his report to the European Parliament's environment committee at the start of next month, Mr Blokland will propose bringing all hazardous waste under the directive's scope. His amendments will incorporate an earlier Commission proposal to set limit values for emissions to water from hazardous waste incineration, something not covered by current legislation.

Mr Blokland told ENDS Daily that it was logical to have a single law because both hazardous and non-hazardous wastes can produce similar harmful emissions when incinerated. He claimed that industry would support the idea as it would simplify the regulatory regime.

According to a Commission official, a merged directive would set limit values that would applicable to incineration of any type of waste at any type of plant, including ones where waste was used as a fuel, known as co-incineration. As the proposals stand, this would mean no change for plants currently burning hazardous waste, which already have to comply with levels similar to those now proposed for non-hazardous waste.

The move seems to have the support of member states. Brussels diplomats discussed the issue for the first time this week and, sources report, there was no opposition to the idea of merging the proposals.

However, it was clear that some countries were wary about the costs of the proposed legislation, particularly for measuring dioxins emissions from plants. The frequency of measuring emissions and the limit values are likely to be key topics for discussions by the member state working groups.

The German EU presidency is keen to make progress on the incineration proposal before its term ends in June. If the full parliament can deliver a first reading in March or April then the presidency hopes to steer through a common position at the meeting of EU environment ministers scheduled for June.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111; EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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