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Europe

Background

The UK’s natural geological structure and high levels of domestic mining meant that the UK was historically able to rely on cheap landfill disposal methods to meet its waste management requirements. The enactment of the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) has subsequently shaped the UK’s waste management policies, requiring the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill to alternative treatment technologies. Target dates of 2010, 2013 and 2020 were set in the Directive and the UK’s 2010 target has been met.

To meet the UK’s 2020 landfill diversion targets requires £10-20 billion of investment in new waste treatment infrastructure. The nature of this infrastructure will also be shaped by European environmental legislation designed to ensure that emissions to air, land and water are minimised. The Industrial Emissions Directive will impose emission limits on waste facilities which will be determined through technical negotiations.

European legislation on producer responsibility also impacts on specific waste streams, including packaging, batteries, end-of-life vehicles, tyres, and waste electrical and electronic equipment. In the UK this has led to the development of compliance schemes which aim to collect and recycle these waste streams to meet the targets placed on the relevant sectors.

The Issues

The timely and effective transposition of European Directives is key to providing the basis of domestic waste law. The revised Waste Framework Directive, which was brought into effect in 2011, will shape the nature of the UK’s waste management sector for decades to come. At the same time, the Government has conducted a full review of domestic waste policies, due to be published in June 2011. It is vital that these initiatives are fully coordinated and that required investment in new infrastructure is not delayed as a result.

Technical negotiations at EU level will lead to the identification of what are considered to be best available techniques (BATs) for technological processes. Adhering to EU guidance setting out these BATs is enshrined in European law and it is essential for the UK to engage fully with this process.

Open and fair competition between the public and private sectors is critical in ensuring that waste services can be provided efficiently both to households and to businesses. Appropriate risk transfer between the two sectors enables value for money to be maximised in the delivery of waste services, while competitive tension within the private sector encourages innovation in new processes.

European public procurement legislation helps to ensure a level playing field and fair competition between the public and private sectors. It is important that this principle remains in place. Ongoing reform to European public procurement legislation could provide opportunities for municipal authorities to monopolise control over domestic waste streams. This would lead to a loss of efficiency in the longer term as a lack of competitive pressures reduces innovation in the sector.

ESA policy recommendations

  1. ESA calls for the Government to implement and enforce the revised Waste Framework Directive in an effective and transparent way.

  2. Government must ensure that any reform to European public procurement legislation maintains the principles of fair competition between the public and private sectors.

  3. ESA calls on the Government to ensure that there is timely and transparent engagement with the industry as part of the best available techniques development process.