Scrap cars squeezed off EU hazardous waste list

Hazardous, non-hazardous, classifications rolled together in EU's first waste catalogue review

"Major advances" were made in harmonising pan-European Union definitions of hazardous waste when the European Waste Catalogue came up for its first review last week, Commission sources have told ENDS Daily.

An Austrian proposal that end-of-life vehicles (ELV) should be added to the list, originally drawn up in 1994, was the only significant measure that failed to secure a qualified majority on the technical advisory committee of national representatives that reviewed proposed changes. Austria had wanted ELVs to be classified as hazardous waste until they were demonstrated to have been "depolluted," through the removal of substances including motor oil, in line with legislation operating in it and several other European countries.

The matter will now be forwarded for review by the EU Environment Council, which is expected to take a decision by April. If the committee's decision is upheld, these countries will be asked to adapt their national legislation accordingly when the new waste list takes effect on 1 January 2002. However, ENDS Daily understands that there is no precedent for compelling countries to make such changes, since the list essentially sets minimum rather than maximum standards.

More than 300 submissions were reviewed by the committee, resulting in what Commission sources described as a "signficant stretching up" from about 50% to 80%

of shared definitions of hazardous waste within the EU. One significant step forward has been to roll together the lists of waste under the 1975 framework directive on waste and the 1994 hazardous waste directive, in the interests of clarity. "Whether many substances should be classified as hazardous depends on what else they occur with," the sources added.

Several substances, including sludges from on-site effluent, contaminated soil and certain packaging - from, for example, pesticides - have been included for the first time. This has been done through a system of "mirror entries" - indicating that there is a choice about whether they are classified as hazardous or non-hazardous, depending on circumstances. Aluminium and zinc skimmings have been removed from the hazardous list to conform with the classification recently adopted by parties to the UN Basel convention on trade in hazardous waste.

A second batch of over 90 submissions has still to be reviewed, hopefully by autumn 2000. One of the most contentious could be the Commission proposal to classify asbestos cement commonly used in water pipes and other construction materials as hazardous waste. Many member states are preparing to oppose this, on the grounds that it will have significant impact on landfilling and that there is no danger if it can be guaranteed that the material will not be touched again.

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

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