Governments "weakening" EU landfill plan

Environmental groups accuse Council of Ministers of watering down draft directive

Environmental groups have accused EU member states of trying to water down a draft directive on the landfill of waste. In a paper prepared for last week's European Parliament hearing on waste policy, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) round on EU countries for attempting to "substantially weaken" the European Commission's proposal.

Since the Commission released the proposal (ENDS Daily 6 March), several EU governments have made no secret of their opposition. At a meeting of EU environment ministers in October, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and the UK said they regarded it as too costly to implement and likely to lead to more, not less, incineration of waste, as the Commission intends (ENDS Daily 17 October). The UK, in particular, is singled out by green groups as trying to weaken the draft directive's targets.

The Luxembourg Presidency has now produced a compromise text, which it hopes ministers will adopt at their December meeting. According to Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which has obtained a copy of the text, targets for reducing the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfills have been watered down, landfill operating requirements have been weakened and exemptions on the control of underground storage have been introduced. In their paper, the green groups warn that "it would be politically untenable for the Parliament to accept this weakening".

The groups call on the European Parliament to "take a tough stance" and reject the Council's proposed changes. However, this seems unlikely in view of the line being taken by its rapporteur, UK Conservative, Caroline Jackson. The MEP is suggesting that landfills recovering more than 75% of methane should be exempted from targets for reducing biodegradable waste. Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the EEB say that this is "unachievable" and "virtually impossible to police". The groups are also opposed to Ms Jackson's proposal that biodegradable waste landfilling be reduced by 60% from 1993 to 2010 rather than the 75% target proposed by the Commission.

According to the groups, the Commission's target need not lead to increased incineration, but can be achieved by greater recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion. Their paper calls on the Commission to propose EU legislation on standards for compost made from municipal waste. They also promote longer-term reduction targets for all wastes going to landfill and incineration.

Follow Up:
Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland, tel: +44 171 490 1555.

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