German waste rules "incompatible with EU law"

Preliminary European court ruling requested, Commission opinion awaited, in two cases

German waste policy makers, producers and waste managers alike are anxiously awaiting a ruling in the European Court of Justice and the European Commission's opinion in a second case, both of which could force changes to German waste law.

In one case, the European Court has been asked by the German federal administrative court to make a preliminary judgement over the competence of member state authorities to prevent cross-border shipments of waste. The proceedings stem from a decision by Baden Württemberg state to force Daimler Chrysler to present some of its wastes to the public authorities, which the car firm challenged in the federal courts.

In the second case, the European Commission is examining a complaint made also by Daimler Chrysler, in which the firm complains that it is being prevented by Baden Württemberg from exporting waste to Belgium for recovery and instead is being forced to treat the waste in Germany.

Both conflicts arise from a 1996 German waste law. This distinguishes between waste for disposal and waste for recovery according to their energy content and requires that wastes below the threshold calorific value be presented to public authorities to handle. In addition, Baden Württemberg requires companies to present certain hazardous wastes even if their high calorific value make them count as wastes for recovery under federal law.

Germany's waste management industry association, the BDE, is opposed both to the obligation to surrender any wastes to public authorities as well as on limits on company's rights to export wastes for recovery.

Its view was supported today by the head of the European Commission environment department's waste unit Ludwig Krämer. Interviewed by ENDS Daily, Mr Krämer claimed that the German law was incompatible with the EU framework waste law 75/442 as well as the waste shipment directive 259/93. He said: "Waste is waste. The generator or holder should decide what he does with it. If he can recover, no one in the world is entitled to stop him".

Meanwhile, both Mr Krämer and the European waste industry association Fead, claimed that the restrictions imposed by Baden Württemberg, as well as separate rules in Lower Saxony, had a largely economic motive. According to Dieter Vogt of Fead, the obligation the German law puts on companies to send waste to public authorities is "to help a state monopoly service, when companies would [otherwise] deal with waste in a more economically and environmentally intelligent way".

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111;

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