On November 19, 2008 the European Parliament and Council ratified Directive 2008/98/EC on waste. Referred to as the “framework directive on waste,” the legislation sets out common definitions (i. e., what constitutes a waste and what is a reusable industrial by-product) and waste policy approaches for the entire European Union. The provisions in the directive must now be “transposed” into national legislation by EU member states. Thus, like other EU directives, the implementation of this directive will vary from state to state.
The revision of the framework directive was initiated in 2002 and is the result of a negotiated process between the European Parliament and the member states’ Council of Ministers.
Among the more interesting provisions is that the directive formalizes a definition of a waste management hierarchy that consists of prevention, preparing for re-use, recycling, other recovery (e. g., energy recovery) and disposal. Additionally, the directive includes a provision for, “… departing from the hierarchy where this is justified by life-cycle thinking on the overall impacts of the generation and management of such waste.”
The inclusion of waste to energy (WTE) in the hierstates hierarchy allows member states to count incineration as waste diversion distinct from disposal — a result that was the subject of intense negotiation and isn’t surprising given the reliance of a number of member states on WTE to achieve their “waste diversion” per-performance.
Another controversial issue was the inclusion and recasting of the original provisions of the Waste Oil Directive which mandated that member states institute ef-efforts to re-refine motor oil. The Waste Oil Directive was hotly contested by Europe’s major oil companies producing lubricants from crude oil and re-refiners that produce lubricants from collected used oils. Member states took positions roughly aligned with the proportional political strength of the contesting commercial parties in their jurisdiction.
While the mandatory re-refining provisions on member states have been lifted, the framework directive continues to encourage re-refining by stating that member states “shall take the necessary measures to ensure that … waste oils are treated in accordance with Articles 4 (the waste hierarchy described above). The directive further allows member states to “restrict the transboundary shipment of waste oils from their territory to incineration or co-incineration facilities in order to give priority to the regeneration (reuse through re-refining) of waste oils.”
With regard to solid waste, the directive identifies a 50 per cent reuse and recycling target for common recyclables and a 70 per cent target for construction and demolition waste. The directive also calls for source separation of common household recyclable materials by all member states by 2015. European environmental organizations claimed that the targets are too low, noting that some Western European member states had already achieved or surpassed those targets.
Many EU member states have to one extent or another implemented Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes for things such as waste electronics and electrical equipment (WEEE) under the EU’s WEEE Directive.
However, the waste framework directive introduces (but does not mandate) EPR as a tool for general application on a broader basis. The directive states: “The introduction of extended producer responsibility in this Directive is one of the means to support the design and production of goods which take into full account and facilitate the efficient use of resources during their whole life-cycle including their repair, re-use, disassembly and recycling without compromising the free circulation of goods on the internal market.”
Of note, Article 15 of the directive assigns the responsibility of waste to the “original waste producer” but allows the member state to transfer partly or wholly that responsibility to the producer of the product.
Where EU Member States have adopted EPR schemes (i. e., WEEE) they’ve primarily done so in a manner that does little more than transfer some or all waste management costs from municipalities to consumers via producers. Whether newer EU member states will want to tackle the politically challenging task of having product producers develop and implement EPR programs for materials — not the subject of other material specific EU EPR directives (e. g., WEEE) — remains to be seen.
An interesting requirement of the directive is the development of state waste management plans, which sets out the national baseline for waste generation and the policy measures that the member state will undertake in meeting the requirements of the framework directive. Precipitating from the waste management plans are state-level waste prevention programs that must be in place by December 12, 2013 (that will allow them to deliver the waste management plans).
Unlike the EU, Canada’s federal government has little ability to set a national waste policy platform for Canada’s provinces. Notionally a federal mandate that provinces develop waste management plans and waste prevention programs might be a good thing. However, centralizing the development of provincial EPR policy is not — at the Canadian federal level political fights are intense and change is hard to come by. A resulting one-size-fits-all approach to EPR likely set at the lowest common denominator would serve no one’s interests. Certain provinces (e. g., Ontario and Quebec) are developing new EPR regulation and this appears to be the next evolutionary stage of waste policy in Canada.
Editor’s Note:See pages 41 and 46 for related articles. Usman Valiante is principal of Corporate Policy Group in Orangeville, Ontario. Contact Usman firstname.lastname@example.org