Ministers to weaken EU landfill proposal

Targets on reduce degradable waste dumping watered down, pre-treatment duty qualified

EU environment ministers are set to substantially weaken the European Commission's proposed landfill directive when they meet in Brussels on Tuesday. In the latest version of the text being negotiated by Council of Ministers' working groups, targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill have been watered down, the requirement to pre-treat waste before it is landfilled has been qualified and operators of existing landfills have been given more time to comply with the proposed new rules.

At the last Environment Council meeting, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and the UK expressed opposition to the Commission's proposal (ENDS Daily 17 October). As these countries have enough votes to form a blocking minority in the Council, the Luxembourg presidency was forced to broker a compromise.

According to the new text, EU member states would have to reduce the total amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfills to 75% of 1995 levels by 2006, to 50% by 2009 and to 35% by 2016. The compromise targets are considerably less ambitious than those proposed by the Commission (ENDS Daily 5 March). These foresaw reductions to 75% of the 1993 amount by 2002, 50% by 2005 and 25% by 2010.

In addition, countries currently landfilling more than 80% of their waste look set to be allowed an extra four years to meet the targets. The UK , Ireland, Greece and Spain are likely to benefit from this derogation. National officials have also added a review clause which allows the Council to re-examine the final target. Based on a Commission report, EU countries would have to decide whether to confirm or amend the 35% target in 2014.

Another proposed change to the draft directive would remove the obligation to pre-treat all wastes before landfilling, as intended by the Commission. Officials have added an escape clause which states that the requirement to pre-treat waste "may not apply to inert waste for which treatment is not technically feasible, or to any other waste for which such treatment does not contribute to the objectives of the directive".

Finally, the Council text proposes that existing landfill sites be given eight instead of five years to comply with the new rules. Sweden and Denmark however, have declared themselves to be "strongly in favour" of the Commission's original plan.

Originally, the Luxembourgers had been hoping to reach a common position at next week's meeting, but because the European Parliament has delayed delivering its opinion, ministers are unlikely to reach any formal agreement (ENDS Daily 24 September). A Presidency spokesman told ENDS Daily that landfill was "a very sensitive issue for the European Parliament" and Council did not want to offend the institution by reaching a political agreement before Parliament's first reading.

Follow Up:
Council of Ministers, tel: + 32 2 285 6111.

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