REPORT on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council concerning the application of Directives 75/439/EEC, 75/442/EEC, 78/319/EEC and 86/278/EEC on waste management (COM(97)0023 final - C40368/97)

10 June 1998

Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection
Rapporteur: Mr Luis Campoy Zueco

By letter of 27 February 1997 the Commission forwarded to the European Parliament and the Council its Communication concerning the application of Directives 75/439/EEC, 75/442/EEC, 78/319/EEC and 86/278/EEC on waste management.

At the sitting of 18 July 1997 the President of Parliament announced that he had referred the Communication to the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection as the committee responsible.

The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection appointed Mr KarlHeinz Florenz rapporteur at its meeting of 21 May 1997 and appointed Mr Luis Campoy Zueco rapporteur in his stead at its meeting of 9 December 1998.

It considered the draft report at its meetings of 15 April and 4 June 1998.

At the latter meeting it adopted the motion for a resolution unanimously.

The following were present for the vote: Collins, chairman; Poggiolini, Dybkjær and Lannoye, vicechairmen; Campoy Zueco, rapporteur; Bowe, Breyer, Díez de Rivera Icaza, Estevan Bolea (for Jackson), Florenz, Gonzalez Alvarez, Graenitz, Hulthén, Kronberger, Lange (for Needle), Lienemann, Myller (for van Putten), Pollack, Roth-Behrendt, Schleicher, Sjöstedt (for Bertinotti), Trakatelis and Virgin.

The report was tabled on 10 June 1998.

The deadline for tabling amendments will be indicated in the draft agenda for the relevant part-session

A MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION

Resolution on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council concerning the application of Directives 75/439/EEC, 75/442/EEC, 78/319/EEC and 86/278/EEC on waste management (COM(97)0023 final - C4-0368/97)

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Commission concerning the application of Directives 75/439/EEC, 75/442/EEC, 78/319/EEC and 86/278/EEC on waste management (COM(97)0023 final - C4-0368/97)[1],

- having regard to Article 5 of the EC Treaty,

- having regard to its past resolutions of 8 April 1992 [2] and 14 May 1997[3]on the application of Community environment lawS1,

- having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection (A4-0235/98),

A. having regard to its commitment to sustainable development as one of the European Union's priority objectives,

B. whereas effective application of Community environment law is a sine qua non for achieving sustainable development,

C. whereas environmentally sound waste management and a significant reduction in the volume of waste are essential conditions for a sustainable and environmentally sound economic policy,

1. Regrets the fact that no Member State has so far incorporated the so-called European Waste Catalogue (EWC) into its national legislation, with the result that each of the Member States continues to interpret differently such concepts as 'industrial waste', 'final waste', 'recycled raw materials' and 'special waste',

2. Deplores the shortcomings and the lack of diligence displayed by the Member States in the transposition, application and implementation of the provisions of Directives:

- 75/442/EEC, as amended by Directive 91/156/EEC of 18 March 1991, on waste,

- 78/317/EEC, as amended by Directive 91/689/EEC of 12 December 1991, on toxic and dangerous waste,

- 75/439/EEC, as amended by Directive 87/101/EEC of 22 December 1986, on the disposal of waste oils,

- 86/278/EEC of 12 June 1986 on the use of sewage sludge in agriculture;

3. Considers that the time has come for the definition of waste in Europe to be established by means of a regulation;

4. Calls on the Member States

(a) pursuant to Article 3(1) of Directive 75/439/EEC (as amended by Directive 87/101/EEC) on the disposal of waste oils, to give priority to the regeneration, rather than the burning, of waste oils, in view of the fact that 90% of waste oils can be recycled;

(b) to forward to the Commission, at least for the 1995-1997 period, the following information pursuant to Article 5 of Directive 91/692/EEC of 23 December 1991 standardizing and rationalizing reports on the implementation of certain Directives relating to the environment:

(i) the report referred to in Article 16 and Annex VI of Directive 91/156/EEC and Article 12 of Directive 75/442/EEC,

(ii) the report referred to in Article 8(2) of Directive 91/968/EEC,

(iii) the report referred to in Article 18 of Directive 75/439/EEC as amended by Directive 87/101/EEC,

(iv) the report referred to in Article 17 of Directive 86/278/EEC,

which are essential if the application of Community law on waste management is to be monitored;

5. Notes that, on account of these serious omissions on the part of the Member States, the Commission is unable to perform the role of guardian of the Treaties and of Community law which it is allocated under Article 155 of the Treaty;

6. Expresses its satisfaction at the fact that, on 15 October 1997, the Commission began infringement proceedings against 13 Member States which had failed to adopt (and/or notify the Commission of) waste disposal plans pursuant to Article 7 of Directive 75/442/EEC; welcomes the start of infringement proceedings by the Commission against three other Member States which have not fully transposed Directive 75/439/EEC, as amended by Directive 87/101/EEC, on the disposal of waste oils;

7. Calls on the Commission

(a) to propose tax incentives for the recovery of waste oil when Directive 75/439/EEC is next amended;

(b) to be more systematic in the automatic initiation of infringement proceedings against Member States which have failed to implement each and every one of the directives' provisions, so that the Commission is not required each time to take a policy decision on the matter;

(c) calls on the Council, when Regulation (EEC) No 1210/90[4] is next revised, to adopt Parliament's amendments[5], the purpose of which is to enable the European Environment Agency to

(i) provide data and information regarding the state of application of Community law on waste management in the Member States,

(ii) increase its cooperation with the IMPEL network and to support the work thereof;

(d) to provide the European Parliament with a quarterly list of cases against defaulting Member States taken to the Court of Justice, a list of cases already decided by the Court, and a list of fines levied by the Court;

8. Calls once again on the Commission and the Council to consolidate Community environment law in order to make it more consistent and transparent;

9. Draws the Member States' attention to the fact that the credibility of the European Union, particularly as far as the candidate Member States are concerned, depends to a large extent on the way in which its legislation is incorporated into national law and the degree to which it is implemented;

10. Expresses its intention, in instances of flagrant violation of EU waste legislation, of inviting the responsible Ministers of the relevant Member States to attend the Environment Committee in order to explain their policy;

11. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the parliaments and governments of the Member States.

  • [1] () OJ
  • [2] () OJ C 125, 18.5.1992, p. 122
  • [3] () OJ C 167, 2.6.1997, p. 92
  • [4] () On the establishment of the European Environment Agency and the European environment information and observation network, OJ L 120, 11.5.1990, p. 1.
  • [5] () A4-0030/98

B. EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

I. Introduction

1. Background

The Commission Communication under consideration is the first attempt to describe the state of application of the legislative framework for Community waste management policy.

This may at first sight seem surprising in view of the fact that the directive on the disposal of waste oils (75/439/EEC), the framework directive on waste (75/442/EEC), the directive on toxic and dangerous waste (78/319/EEC) and the directive on the use of sewage sludge (86/278/EEC) were adopted in 1975, 1978 and 1986 respectively.

Under the terms of each of these Community directives on waste management the Member States are required to submit regular reports on the transposition, application and implementation thereof. Such reports are essential as a means of establishing whether or not the Member States have sufficient determination to ensure that legal acts adopted are properly applied.

For many years the Member States have dragged their heels over the submission of such reports; in one case, not a single report has been submitted in 22 years.

The systematic delay in what should be the compulsory forwarding of information by the Member States (which also occurs in other areas) finally prompted the Commission to submit a directive standardizing and rationalizing reports in order to force the Member States to comply with what is required of them (Directive 91/692/EEC, of 23 December 1991)[1]. As regards waste management, this directive states quite categorically that the Member States are required to submit a report concerning the 1995-1997 period by September 1998. For its part the Commission has until mid-1999 in order to report on the application of Community law on waste. The Commission Communication under consideration is therefore a description of the situation up to 1995. The Member States may refer to this document in order to find out which aspects they must devote particular attention to when drawing up their reports for submission by September 1998.

2. Comments

It is not entirely clear why the Commission decided to select Directives 75/439/EEC, 75/442/EEC, 78/319/EEC and 86/278/EEC as a basis for its report on the matter. It would have done better to include other sectoral directives in its analysis, relating to specific types of waste such as Directive 76/403/EEC of 6 April 1976 on the management of polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated terphenyls and Directive 78/176/EEC of 20 February 1978 on waste from the titanium dioxide industry. It also seems doubtful that the body of legislation on waste can be comprehensively assessed if no analysis is carried out of the application of the directives on the incineration of domestic waste and special waste (Directives 89/49/EEC, 89/369/EEC and 94/67/EEC).

II. Application of the various directives

The effort made by the Commission in submitting the Communication should of course be welcomed. It should, however, be pointed out that the application of the four directives by the Member States leaves much to be desired and this jeopardizes the fulfilment of such important objectives as public health, the functioning of the internal market and sustainable development.

1. Directive 75/442/EEC, as amended by Directive 91/156/EEC, on waste

The different interpretations of the concept of 'waste' in the Member States hinder the operation of the internal market in waste and recycled raw materials, as evidenced by the many disputes which are brought before the Court of Justice.

The industrial sectors involved in the recycling of metals, paper, textiles and oil criticize, inter alia, the lack of uniformity in the application within the Member States of Article 11 of Directive 91/156/EEC, which enables some of the undertakings that carry out waste recovery to be exempted from certain permit requirements. This leads to distortions of competition within the internal market.

2. Directive 78/319/EEC, as amended by Directive 91/689/EEC, on toxic and dangerous waste

In this case too the application of the directive by the Member States is far from satisfactory. The distinction between hazardous and non-hazardous waste is of major importance to the industry on account of the fact that administrative expenditure and safety costs increase greatly when waste is classified as 'hazardous'. The impression is gained that six Member States (Portugal, Greece, Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium and Ireland), which did not reply at all (or only partly) to the Commission's inquiries regarding the application of the definition of the concept of hazardous waste, are tacitly accepting that there should be distortions of competition between undertakings. In the case of the countries which have not submitted a plan for the disposal of toxic and dangerous waste as required under Article 12 of the directive (France, Greece, Italy and Portugal), it must be accepted that such waste is on occasions disposed of in an unregulated fashion.

3. Directive 75/439/EEC, as amended by Directive 87/101/EEC, on the disposal of waste oils

Article 3(1) allows the Member States considerable scope for putting forward technical, economic or organizational reasons, with the result that they are in no way obliged to give priority to the regeneration (rather than the burning) of waste oils. This is highly regrettable in view of the fact that 90% of waste oil is motor oil which can easily be recovered. The burning of waste oil should be reduced, for example, by means of tax exemptions for recycled oil.

4. Directive 86/278/EEC on sewage sludge

The situation regarding this directive is equally lamentable. The Commission is certainly right when it says that conclusions cannot be drawn at Union level on the basis of reports from only five countries, of which only two and a half are complete (Spain, the United Kingdom and, in the case of Belgium, Flanders).

III. Methods of securing greater environmental protection in the field of waste management

Application of the Community provisions in this field could be improved. If the provisions were more transparent and the texts more clearly drafted or of a better quality, they would be easier to understand and the Member States would be more inclined to incorporate them into national law, to apply them and to ensure that they are observed.

The very fact that Community law in this area is spread over 20 legal acts is contrary to the principle of transparency. Provisions which have been amended on a number of occasions should be consolidated within a single text rather than being spread over a number of issues (from a variety of years) of the Official Journal, as is currently the case. It is such a glaring mistake on the part of the Commission that, for example, it should refer in its Communication to Directive 78/319/EEC, given that the latter was replaced on 12 December 1993 by Directive 91/689/EEC. Another example is that of Framework Directive 75/442/EEC, which was significantly amended by Directive 91/156/EEC. However, it is not clear whether or not the original 1975 version is still in force, with the result that references to the framework directive sometimes relate to Directive 75/442/EEC and sometimes to Directive 91/156/EEC. It is essential for uniform terminology to be adopted, so as to ensure that the authorities and the general public (i.e. all those affected by the legislation) are fully aware of what is being referred to. A consolidation of Community environmental law (which Parliament has been calling for for years) would remedy this state of affairs.

The European Environment Agency is responsible for providing reliable, objective and comparable data on the state of the environment.

As time goes by the Agency will be in a better position to ascertain which Member States comply with the provisions on waste and actually apply and implement them. Close cooperation between the Agency and both the Commission and the Member States is essential if Community law is genuinely to be applied in each of the countries concerned. For this reason the Commission must be allowed, when Regulation (EEC) No 1210/90 is next amended, to instruct the Agency to gather data relating to the progress made by each of the Member States in applying the aspects of Community law in question.

Greater cooperation between the European Environment Agency and the IMPEL network (representatives of the national governments and Commission officials responsible for implementing Community environment law) would be another step in the same direction. The amendments to Regulation (EEC) No 1210/90 which Parliament has recently adopted will provide the appropriate legal basis.

  • [1] () OJ L 377, 31.12.1991, pages 48-54