Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)

The Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC was adopted on 20 December 2008 and published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 22 November 2008. It entered into force on 12 December 2008. Date of transposition into national legislation of the European Union Member States passed on 12 December 2010. It repealed the old Framework Directive (Directive 2006/12/EC) and incorporating and repealing the Hazardous Waste Directive (Directive 91/689/EEC) and the Waste Oil Directive (Directive 75/439/EEC).   The Directive is the overarching piece of legislation that governs waste management in Europe. It places the “Waste Hierarchy” on a firm legal footing and sets the basic concepts and definitions related to waste management, such as definitions of waste, recycling, recovery.

The nature of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)

There are two types of European Law; primary and secondary. Treaties are the starting point for EU law and are known in the EU as primary law. The body of law that comes from the principles and objectives of the treaties is known as secondary law; and includes regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations, and opinions. Image  1.1 shows the hierarchy of the Legal Framework associated with Waste Management after 12 December 2010 in the European Union. 

Waste Framework Directive
Figure 1.1 – Source European Commission

Scientific evidence that justifies the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)

The ranking of waste management options within the Directive was based on scientific research on how the impact of options on the environment in terms of climate change, air quality, water quality, and resource depletion. The waste hierarchy was first formulated by former scientists and Dutch politician Ad Lansink who proposed it in Dutch Parliament in 1979. It was developed as a result of Lansink’s concern for ‘mounting volumes of waste coupled with a shortage of landfill space. Since the adoption of the Directive, it is now a common trend that the majority of Member State waste management regimes have shifted from policies based on the control of waste disposal activities, to include goals for waste prevention and recovery.  

Regular statistics on the production of waste by businesses and private households and its management are needed to monitor the implementation of the waste policy within the European Union.

These data are collected from EU countries on the basis of the Regulation on waste statistics (2150/2002/EC) and published every two years in line with common methodological recommendations.  

When the Directive was entered into force, rates of disposal via landfill, recycling, and energy recovery were 48.7 percent, 21.3 percent, and 30 percent, respectively among European Member States (Lazarevic et al., 2010). Within a six-year period, the quantity of waste recovered, (incinerated with energy recovery or recycled) had increased from 30 percent in 2008 to 51.1 percent in 2014 (Eurostat, 2014).

Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) because of its heterogeneous composition the environmentally sound management is challenging. (Eurostat, 2015). MSW constitutes only around 10 % of total waste generated. However, Eurostat (2010) released a report outlining that the MSW volumes had increased up to 15 % from 1995 to 2008 with the yearly average increasing index to be up to 1 %. In 2008, 521 kg per capita of municipal waste was being generated. However, by 2015 this had fallen to 476 kg per capita suggesting a significant improvement since the adoption of the Directive. (Eurostat, 2015)

How do organisations comply with the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)?

TheDirective specifies that Member States shall take measures, as appropriate, to promote the reuse of products and prepare for reuse activities, notably by encouraging the establishment and support of reuse and repair networks, the use of economic instruments, procurement criteria, quantitative objectives or other measures. (Ireland. Department of Communication, Climate Action & Environment, 2014). As a Directive, the Directive requires EU countries to achieve these objectives, but leave them free to choose how to do so. EU countries must adopt measures to incorporate them into national law (transpose) in order to achieve the objectives set by the directive. National authorities must communicate these measures to the European Commission (European Commission, 2016). The Directive was transposed into Irish legislation in 2011 through the adoption of the European Communities (Waste Directive) Regulations 2011 (SI No. 126 of 2011)

 Waste Management Policy in Ireland is the latest policy statement on waste resource management in Ireland and has been central in the development of the latest generation of regional waste management plans (RWMPs) . RWMPs for the three regions of Connacht-Ulster, Southern, and Eastern-Midlands was established in June 2013, and in May 2015 three waste management plans were published for each. The three RWMPs address waste prevention and management (including generation, collection, and treatment) over the period 2015-2021. (Department of Communication, Climate Action & Environment, 2017). The Waste Hierarchy is central to these plans.

Ireland also has a National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP), which has been in place since 2004 and is operated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The most recent NWPP is titled ‘Towards a Resource Efficient Ireland’. It highlights the key role for the programme in delivering on national priorities on competitiveness and green growth. (Environmental Protection Agency, 2016).

Penalties for non-compliance the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)

In January 2011, the Commission opened infringement proceedings against 23 Member States for non-compliance with the Directive. Infringement proceedings are formally brought forth by the European Commission when national authorities fail to properly implement EU laws. The Commission must send a letter of formal notice requesting further information to the country concerned. A detailed reply must be received by the Commission within a specified period, this is usually 2 months. If the Commission concludes that the country is failing to fulfill its obligations under EU law, it may send a reasoned opinion: a formal request to comply with EU law. Following the implementation of this formal procedure, if the issue is still not settled, the Commission will refer the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). If the Member State is referred to the ECJ for a second time, based on failure to rectify the situation following the court’s original judgment, then financial penalties are imposed. These penalties can be in a lump sum and/or daily payment. On 26 April 2016, the Commission referred Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia to the EU Court of Justice for failing to meet the December 2010 deadline to transpose the EU’s Waste Framework Directive into national law. The Commission sent letters of formal notice to the four states concerned on 27 January 2011. Reasoned opinions were sent to Hungary and Slovakia on 20 May 2011, and Bulgaria and Poland on 16 June 2011. Following this, on the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission asked the Court to impose penalty payments on the four countries in question. The financial penalty payments requested are as follows: Bulgaria: 15 220 € per day, Hungary: 27 316 € per day, Poland: 67314 € per day and Slovakia: 17 136 € per day

Responsibility for compliance to the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) at a national level in Ireland

The requirements of the Directive is reflected in Irish law by the Waste Management Act 1996 (WMA).  The WMA was amended by SI No. 126 of 2011 which transposed the requirements of the Directive (Clare County Council, 2014). Several other statutory instruments deal with specific aspects of the Directive, including the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992, the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001 and the Protection of the Environment Act 2003. Since July 2016, Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment has overall responsibility for waste management policy. Waste Legislation is implemented largely by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Local Authorities (Citizen Information, 2016).  

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