EC taking Romania and Slovenia to Court of Justice for not fulfilling EU directives in waste management

May 5, 2017

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EC taking Romania and Slovenia to Court of Justice for not fulfilling EU directives in waste management

The European Commission is taking Slovenia and Romania to Court of Justice of the EU for, in case of Slovenia, it failed to close and rehabilitate 28 illegal landfills which represent a serious risk for human health and the environment. In case of Romania, it is taken to the Court for failing to review and adopt its national waste management plan and waste prevention programme, in line with the objectives of EU Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC) and the circular economy.

No cleaning of 28 landfills in Slovenia

Despite earlier warnings from the Commission, Slovenia has failed to take measures against 28 non-compliant landfills, as required by EU rules on landfilling (Landfill Directive, Council Directive 1999/31/EC), according to the press release published by EC.

Under the Directive, Member States must recover and dispose of waste in a manner that does not endanger human health and the environment, prohibiting the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste. Slovenia was obliged to close and rehabilitate these substandard municipal and industrial landfills by 16 July 2009.

Due to insufficient progress in addressing the issue, the Commission sent an additional reasoned opinion in April 2016, urging the authorities to adequately deal with 35 uncontrolled sites, which – although not in operation – still posed a threat to human health and the environment.

Some progress was made, but for 28 landfills the necessary measures – to clean them up and close them – had still not been completed by March 2017. In an effort to urge Slovenia to speed up the process, the Commission is bringing the Slovenian authorities before the Court of Justice of the EU.

Under EU law, only safe and controlled landfill activities should be carried out in Europe. The Landfill Directive (Council Directive 1999/31/EC) lays down standards to protect human health and the environment, in particular surface water, groundwater, soil and air, from the negative effects caused by the collection, transport, storage, treatment and disposal of waste. It aims to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects of landfilling of waste over the whole life-cycle of landfills.

Similar measures have been taken against 6 other Member States: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Spain, Italy, Romania and Slovakia. The Court has already issued judgements condemning Bulgaria, Cyprus and Spain.

There are many different ways of disposing of waste. Burying it in the ground, known as ‘landfilling’, is the least environmentally sustainable and should be kept to the absolute minimum.

Romania failed in revising its waste management plan

The European Commission is taking also Romania to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to review and adopt its national waste management plan and waste prevention programme, in line with the objectives of EU Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC) and the circular economy, states another press release of EC.

Despite earlier warnings from the Commission, the Romanian authorities have failed to review and update their national waste management plan and waste prevention programme.

This revision should have taken place at the latest by 2013. The Commission initiated the infringement procedure in September 2015 and sent a reasoned opinion to Romania in May 2016, urging the authorities to promptly adopt these core instruments required by the waste legislation.

The Commission has been checking the compliance with these obligations for all Member States. Infringement cases have been opened against several Member States such as Belgium, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain and Slovenia. These cases are at different stages, and two of them have been closed (Slovenia and Croatia) following adoption of the appropriate plans and programmes.

Under the Directive, Member States had to adopt national waste management plans by  December 2010, and waste prevention programmes by December 2013.

Such plans and programmes are intended to reduce the impact of waste on human health and the environment, and to improve resource efficiency across the EU. They are also a key for accessing EU funds and setting the framework for the development of sustainable waste infrastructure.

Member States have to re-evaluate their waste management plans at least every six years and revise them as appropriate.

Romania is one of the most underperforming Member State in terms of managing municipal solid waste, with the highest landfilling rate of 72%, far above the EU average of 25,6%, in 2015.