24th Oct 2021

Commission wants new EU agency for rubbish

  • The number of illegal shipments of waste to developing countries has increased dramatically in recent years (Photo: European Commission)

The huge rise in illegal waste shipments in recent years, Europe's thousands of illegal landfills, particularly in Italy and France, and the poor quality of waste management infrastructure in many member states means that a dedicated European Union agency devoted to waste is required, the commission has concluded.

As much as a fifth of waste shipments that have been inspected in the bloc are illegal, according to a new Brussels report. Calling the increase in waste shipments in the last two decades "dramatic," the document notes that exports of waste paper by the EU15 - the older members of the bloc ahead of the eastern enlargement in 2004 - from 1995 to 2005 increased increased more than five-fold and those of waste plastic, seven-fold. Hazardous waste, the report notes, is often shipped to developing countries with poor waste management facilities, while electrical waste is shipped as second-hand goods.

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"Illegal dumping of waste continues on a significant scale, many landfill sites are sub standard and in some member states, basic waste infrastructure is still missing. Illegal waste shipments are also a concern," reads the report.

The scale of the problem has grown in recent years following increases in waste generated and shipped within the enlarged EU as well.

The EU executive is also concerned about the increasing number of cases before the European Court of Justice complaining of illegal landfills and inadequate response by member states. The court in 2007 found that thousands of sites in France and Italy have been identified as illegal landfills.

"Compliance with EU legislation is essential if we are to achieve the overarching goal of EU waste legislation, which is to protect the health of European citizens and the environment," said environment commissioner Stavros Dimas upon the publication of the report.

"We must look at all the options, including setting up an EU agency or body which could enable EU legislation to deliver the maximum benefits for citizens, the environment and the EU economy."

Such an agency would review enforcement systems in member states, coordinate controls and inspection activities. This would be combined with the creation of a specific European body responsible for direct inspections and controls of facilities and sites in serious cases of non-compliance.

The study reckons the agency would cost about €16 million annually.

A further in-depth cost analysis will be carried out this year. Further steps may be proposed during 2011.

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