Revised Waste Framework Directive

The Waste Framework Directive (WFD) was originally introduced in 1975 and brought waste management controls throughout the European Union, explains Colin Malcolm Principal Consultant, Environment, at Workplace Law Group.

Several subsequent revisions to the WFD have occurred and the most recent of these entered into force on 12th December 2008. Article 40 of this revision requires Member States to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive within two years.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for transposing the revised Waste Framework Directive in England; and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) is responsible for its transposition in Wales. Under European law, the UK will be required to comply with the revised Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC) in England and Wales (WFD) by 12th December 2010.

RevisedWasteFrameworkDirective1The revised WFD is the subject of a two-stage consultation exercise. The first stage consultation, which requested views on the revised WFD provisions as summarised below, closed on 9th October 2009 and a report summarising the consultation responses is currently available from the Defra website.
The second stage involves consultation on the regulations required to ensure full and correct transposition of the WFD. The second stage consultation documentation at the time of going to press has not yet been published.

The overall objective of the revised WFD is 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. To achieve this objective, the revised WFD re-enacts, repeals or revises three existing Directives:

  1. The existing Waste Framework Directive
  2. The Waste Oils Directive
  3. The Hazardous Waste Directive

Key issues
The revised WFD contains many separate articles that will influence the way in which waste will be managed. The key issues that are likely to affect businesses are outlined below.

Article 4_provides revised definitions on the Waste Hierarchy and how its hierarchical requirements, i.e. waste prevention, preparing for reuse, recycling, other recovery and finally disposal can be more effectively integrated into waste management practices. As the true cost of waste is approximately ten times the cost of disposal alone, the benefits of adopting the waste hierarchy methodology should already be well integrated into the waste and resource management arrangements of businesses.

Article 8_introduces discretionary provisions related to extending producer responsibility as a means to strengthen the re-use, prevention, recycling and other recovery of waste. Many businesses will already be familiar with producer responsibility waste legislation, such as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment; End of Life Vehicles; Packaging and Packaging Waste and Batteries and Accumulators. The revised WFD does not specifically address any new activities that will be covered by producer responsibility Directives; rather the emphasis is on firming up commitments towards future policy direction in this area.

Article 11 (1) encompasses several issues regarding the increase of re-use and recycling practices. This includes the promotion of networks and economic instruments and Defra’s initial view is that existing initiatives will demonstrate compliance, particularly as the UK has a strong performance in this area via organisations such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and third sector organisations such as Freecycle.

Articles 17-20_relate to hazardous waste and most of the provisions are consistent with existing regulations, such as the Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005. However, three notable changes are proposed and these include the addition of a new property (H13: Sensitizing – substances and penetrations which, if they are inhaled or ingested or if they penetrate the skin, may induce non-hereditary congenital malformations or increase their incidence) and the re-numbering of H13 to H15. The third change provides derogation from the ban on mixing hazardous waste and, in particular, only allows mixing where the permitted mixing operation conforms to best available techniques.

Article 21_repeals the Waste Oils Directive with effect from 12th December 2010, although some of the Directive provisions are re-enacted into the revised WFD. Member states are required to ensure that waste oils are treated in accordance with Article 4 (Waste Hierarchy).

Article 22_relates to bio-waste and there is a clear commitment to develop the separate collection, treatment and subsequent use of materials produced from bio-waste. This article is particularly responsive to the negative environmental impacts associated with bio waste disposal to landfill.

Businesses need to keep up to date with progress on the Stage 2 consultation and, particularly, how the final interpretations released on 12th December 2010 will impact on their waste management and compliance strategies.

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