Lofty ideals of EU Landfill Directive

The Landfill Directive Fact File

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Lofty ideals of EU Landfill DirectiveTHE EUROPEAN Directive 1999/31/ EC on the Landfill of Waste (Landfill Directive) was incorporated into English law by the Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002, with amendments issued in 2004 and 2005.

The overall objective is to:

“… prevent or reduce as far as possible the negative effects on the environment, in particular the pollution of surface water, groundwater, soil and air, and on the global environment, including the greenhouse effect as well as any resulting risk to human health, from the landfilling of waste, during the whole life-cycle of the landfill”.

The Directive included a requirement to be fully implemented by July 2009.

Key Provisions of the EU Landfill Directive

SINCE OCTOBER 2007, all non-hazardous and inert waste must be treated before being sent to landfill.

What does this mean in practice? Non-hazardous waste is waste that does not feature on the list of hazardous waste in the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) 2002. Regulation 7(4) of the Landfill Regulations sets out the full definition of inert waste, which is effectively limited to insoluble mineral material. The Regulations also list a number of substances that can be assumed to meet the criteria, and so may be accepted at a landfill for inert waste without further evidence. If a waste is intended for inert landfill, but is not on that list, it must be tested and certified as meeting the waste acceptance criteria.

The safe landfill from NAUE VIDEOS on Vimeo.

What are waste acceptance criteria?

The primary aim of the waste acceptance criteria (WAC) is to protect groundwater. The Regulations set out detailed test methods and limit values for leachate and other substances, as well as lists of acceptable wastes that do not need to be tested.


To qualify as treatment, a process must pass the “three point test”:

  • reduce its volume
  • reduce its hazardous nature
  • facilitate its handling
  • enhance its recovery.

Banned Substances

As from 1 July 2008 it has been an offense for a landfill operator to accept hazardous waste with a total organic carbon (TOC) content of more than six percent.

Waste containing identifiable gypsum-based materials (eg plasterboard) must not be landfilled with biodegradable waste. It should be separated for re-use or recycling where possible. Where a load of gypsum is sent to landfill it must be deposited in a separate cell with waste that does not have a biodegradable content that exceeds specified limits.

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales all liquid wastes are banned from landfill. In Scotland liquid wastes are usually banned from landfill under a site's Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit.

Other Banned Substances

  • Wastes that are explosive, corrosive, oxidising, highly flammable or flammable in landfill conditions
  • Infectious wastes
  • Whole used tyres were banned from 2003
  • Shredded tyres from 2006
  • Wastes that do not meet specified waste acceptance criteria.


The Directive introduced targets for the progressive reduction of biodegradable municipal waste being sent for disposal in landfill. EU wide targets were established for 2006, 2009 and 2016 for reduction of biodegradable municipal waste.

As the UK started from a point where over 80 percent of this waste was being landfilled in 1995, a four year derogation on these targets was available and the UK biodegradable waste targets stand as:

  • by 2010 the biodegradable waste landfilled must be reduced to 75 percent of that produced in 1995
  • by 2013 the biodegradable waste landfilled must be reduced to 50 percent of that produced in 1995
  • by 2020 the biodegradable waste landfilled must be reduced to 35 percent of that produced in 1995.

Autumn 2014 Update

New recycling targets are being agreed between the EU states currently. Zero Waste to landfill is being implemented in a number of EU states and regions within EU states.

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