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The Framework Directive on Waste

At the core of EU waste law has always been a general directive on waste (‘the Framework Directive on Waste’ or ‘FDW’) defining key concepts, establishing major principles, and allocating responsibilities. Other pieces of waste law regulate either specific waste streams, such as packaging waste, or specific forms of waste management, such as transboundary shipments or landfill.

The first FDW was Directive 75/442/EEC on waste, adopted in 1975.n It defined waste as any substance or object which the holder disposes of or is required to dispose of pursuant to the provisions of national law in force (Art 1). In 1991 it was subject to significant changes affecting, inter alia, the definitions of ‘waste’ and ‘disposal’.i2 Thereafter, waste has been any substance or object ‘which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’. Initially the substance or object should also belong to one of the categories set out in Annex I to the Directive. But since one of these categories was ‘any materials, substances or products which are not contained in the above categories’, this requirement did not actually add to the definition of waste and was later removed from the article defining waste. In 2006 a codified version of the Directive, incorporating the amendments from 1991 as well as later ones, was adopted as Directive 2006/12/EC on wasted3

Only two years later this was replaced by a new FDW, Directive 2008/98/EC on wasted4 This step was prompted primarily by a wish to clarify key concepts such as the definitions of waste, recovery and disposal; to strengthen waste prevention; to better take into account the whole life-cycle of products and materials; and to encourage recovery of waste and the use of recovered materials.^ Two older directives were also repealed, one on hazardous waste and one on waste oils, and their main provisions integrated into the FDWd6 Other noticeable changes compared to the previous FDW included the introduction of criteria for distinguishing byproducts from waste and for aiding the determination of when waste ceases to be waste (‘end-of-waste status’).

Directive 2008/98/EC, which is based on an article corresponding to the current Article 192(1) TFEU, aims to protect the environment and human health by preventing or reducing the adverse impacts of the generation and management of waste and by reducing overall impacts of resource use and improving the efficiency of such use (Art 1).

As mentioned, the definition of waste is wide and now encompasses ‘any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’. However, a number of substances or phenomena are excluded from the scope of the Directive altogether. Among these are gaseous effluents emitted into the atmosphere; unexcavated contaminated soil;[1] [2] radioactive waste; and, with some qualifications, faecal matter, straw, and other natural non-hazardous agricultural or forestry material used in farming, forestry, or for the production of energy. Other substances, including waste waters, carcasses of animals that have died other than by being slaughtered, and waste from the mining industry, are excluded to the extent that they are covered by other EU legislation. (Arts 2 and 3.)

  • [1] Such soil had previously been deemed to be waste by the Court of Justice in Case C-1/03 Van de Walle and Others ECLI:EU:C:2004:490.
  • [2] Incineration facilities dedicated to the processing of municipal solid waste must meet certainenergy efficiency standards, set out in a footnote to point R 1 in Annex II, for the incineration to beconsidered a recovery operation.
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