UK: The Landfill Directive - The Key Provisions

Last Updated: 17 January 2001

Council Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste was adopted by the European Council on 26 April 1999. The Directive must be transposed into UK legislation by 16 July 2001.

Overall Objective

The aim of the Directive is to ‘prevent or reduce as far as possible the negative effects on the well as any resulting risk to human health, from landfilling of waste.’ It seeks to give effect to the Waste Hierarchy (waste reduction, reuse, recovery and waste disposal) by imposing reduction targets on waste going to landfill.

Key Provisions

  • The Directive applies to most landfill sites in the UK, including internal waste disposal sites but excluding waste transfer stations
  • Article 4 introduces a new classification system for landfill sites - landfill for hazardous waste, landfill for non-hazardous waste and landfill for inert waste, which will end the co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste
  • The government must introduce a strategy for the implementation of the reduction of biodegradable waste going to landfill by 16 July 2003. As the UK currently landfills more than 80 per cent of its municipal waste, it has been able to postpone the attainment of the targets set out in the Directive by four years
  • The strategy shall ensure that the following targets are met:
    1. By 2010 to reduce landfilled biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) to 75 per cent of that produced in 1995
    2. By 2013 to reduce landfilled BMW to 50 per cent of that produced in 1995
    3. By 2020 to reduce landfilled BMW to 35 per cent of that produced in 1995
  • The Directive also places a ban on the landfill of liquid waste, infectious clinical waste and explosive, flammable or corrosive wastes by 16 July 2001 and on the landfill of whole tyres by 16 July 2003 (but see below in relation to existing sites)
  • The strategy should ensure that only waste that has been subject to 'treatment' is landfilled
  • Existing sites may not continue to operate unless the following steps are accomplished:
    1. Before 16 July 2002 the operator shall prepare a 'conditioning plan' and submit it to the Environment Agency for approval. This should demonstrate how the operator will comply with the Directive, how the operator has made financial provision to ensure the obligations under the licence will be met and how the management of the site will be in the hands of a technically competent person
    2. If the Environment Agency approves the conditioning plan, the operator will be given a transitional period to complete the plan. Otherwise, steps will be taken to close down sites that have not been granted a permit to continue
    3. Existing landfill sites must comply with the requirements of the Directive as soon as possible and at the latest by July 2009. The Directive does, however, stipulate that by July 2002 hazardous landfill sites will be classified and not able to take liquid waste, infectious clinical waste or explosive or flammable waste and by July 2004 not able to take any non-hazardous waste
  • Article 11 and Annex II set out rigorous new waste acceptance procedures including a three level hierarchy of testing waste prior to its disposal. Ultimately a uniform waste classification procedure will be developed
  • The operator shall collect landfill gas from all landfills receiving biodegradable waste and the gas must be treated and used. If the gas cannot be used to produce energy, it must be flared
  • Other provisions in the Directive deal with control and monitoring of landfills during operation and closure and after-care procedures
  • Following closure of the site, the operator will be obliged to monitor and analyse landfill gas and leachate and the groundwater regime ‘for as long as the [Agency] considers that a landfill is likely to cause a hazard to the environment’
  • The government shall take steps to ensure that all costs involved in setting up and operating a landfill site, including the cost of financial security and the costs of closure and after-care for a period of at least 30 years, are covered by the price charged by the operator for the disposal of waste at the site

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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