The directive under discussion was proposed last autumn by the Commission to update older EU laws on the incineration of municipal waste and to extend the rules to cover plants such as cement kilns that sometimes co-incinerate waste and fuels (ENDS Daily 8 October 1998). In its first reading, the European Parliament voted for the new directive to take over the provisions of a 1994 directive on the burning of hazardous waste as well and for many emissions limits values to be tightened (ENDS Daily 14 April).
The German EU presidency is aiming to achieve a ministerial common position on the directive in June, in which EU governments will accept the idea of making the law cover incineration of both non-hazardous and hazardous wastes. However, the Council wants to maintain lower emissions standards for incinerators burning hazardous waste than for those burning non-hazardous wastes - in particular for nitrogen oxides (NOx) - which is a differential the Parliament is seeking to end.
According to one negotiator, the reason is because it would be unfair on hazardous waste incinerator operators to set new rules at a time when many are still gearing up to cope with the requirements of the 1994 directive, which will not apply to older plants until July next year. The text under discussion repeats the same limit values for hazardous waste that apply in the 1994 directive.
Another Brussels diplomat told ENDS Daily that it still made sense to have a single directive as it would be simpler to apply and would mean that emissions limit values for all incinerators could be harmonised at some time in the future if necessary.
But environmental and consumer NGOs are claiming that the text would result in an incoherent directive. Three NGOs, including the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), issued a statement saying the current text would result in "an upside-down hierarchy of safety requirements" where the rules on hazardous waste could be more lenient than those for household waste. One example of this is that incinerators burning only hazardous waste will not have to apply any emissions limit value to oxides of nitrogen (NOx), as this was not covered by the 1994 directive. In addition, the proposed 800 milligrams per cubic metre limit on NOx from cement kilns would only apply to kilns burning non-hazardous waste.
Please enter your details
Not a subscriber?
Take a free trial now to discover the critical insights and updates our coverage offers subscribers.