The European Green Deal and the Waste Regulation
The goal of the European Green Deal is to transform the European economy for a sustainable future. The ambition for the European Union to become climate neutral is contained in the 2030 and 2050 climate targets. One of the goals is the creation and implementation of a clean, circular economy. The Waste Regulation therefore sets rules for waste management.
The waste policy of the European Union is primarily aimed at preventing the creation of waste. The waste that is created has to be transformed into reusable materials of high quality. This policy is reflected in the desire to harmonise waste collection systems within Europe, but also by introducing new waste management rules and tightening existing ones.
The Waste Ordinance
The EU Waste Framework Directive sets out some fundamental waste management principles. For example, waste must be managed (i) without endangering human health or nature, (ii) without risk to water, air, soil, plants and animals, (iii) without causing a nuisance through smell or noise and (iv) without adversely affecting the natural landscape or areas of special interest. These principles are broadly formulated. In addition, the Regulation provides a definition of waste. This is important to distinguish when a substance is waste and when it is a secondary raw material – material from which something can be made. Thirdly, the European regulation has implemented two principles: the ‘polluter pay principle’ and the ‘extended producer responsibility’.
The “polluter pays” principle originates in international law. It is linked to the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. This means that countries that have contributed more to the problem (climate change through C02 emissions) should also bear more of the costs of changes to mitigate the problem. This means that the most polluting countries bear the greatest responsibility.
Finally, the “waste hierarchy” is an important part of the regulation. Preventing waste is the preferred option. Next comes preparing for reuse. Third on the ladder is recycling. Then recovery. And if nothing else, waste destruction is the last resort.
What is waste and what is a secondary raw material?
The so-called “End-of-waste” criteria determine when waste ceases to be waste and can be qualified as a product or a raw secondary raw material. Based on Article 6(1) jo. (2) of the Waste Regulation, the following substances are no longer considered waste after recycling: (i) substance/material can be used for specific purposes, (ii) there is an existing market for the substance/material, (iii) the use of the substance/material is legal and (iv) the use has no overall negative effect on public health.
What to do with hazardous waste?
Waste materials may pose a threat to public health. In such a case, the Waste Regulation requires a stricter control regime. The Waste Ordinance does additional labelling, record keeping, monitoring and checking of compliance with all obligations during the entire treatment process. From waste production to recovery or destruction.
The definition of hazardous waste, i.e. its qualification, is based on the same principles that apply to the entire cycle of materials. This is in line with the European waste list.
Revision of the Waste Ordinance
The European Commission is currently working on a revision of the WFD (Waste Framework Directive). The aim is to further reduce the impact of waste and waste disposal by means of improved waste management. Therefore, the measures described above (waste hierarchy, the polluter pays principle, Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes) are being assessed for impact and revised. This WFD revision is expected in 2023.