European landfill directive

Under the European Landfill Directive, whole tyres can no longer be sent to landfill for disposal.

From July 2006, this ban also extends to shredded tyres.

The UK generated 475,232 tonnes of waste tyres during 2004. Of this, 34% was recycled, 26% re-used, 15% was burned as a fuel, 7% exported and 6% used in landfill engineering applications.

Only 12% of used tyres went to landfill in 2004, but this still represented 58,797 tonnes of material, which will need a home when the landfill ban extends to shredded tyres in July 2006.

The government has decided a system of voluntary producer responsibility will be enough to meet the terms of the Landfill Directive on used tyres.

Traditionally the UK has been heavily reliant on landfill: of a total 28.2 million tonnes of municipal waste produced in 2000/01, 79% — about 23 million tonnes — was landfilled. Just 12% was recycled or composted and 8% was incinerated with energy recovery.

The waste we produce is growing by about 3% every year: this is more than the growth in GDP (2-2.5%) and one of the fastest European growth rates for waste.

The Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC, which was adopted by the European Union in 1999, is beginning to drastically change the way the UK handles waste. The directive was brought into force in the UK on June 15 2002 as the Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002, and since then it has been introduced bit-by-bit to give UK industry time to adapt.

The first requirement of the regulations was a ban on the co-disposal of hazardous waste with non-hazardous waste in landfills. Previously, UK landfills had accepted either inert materials only or both hazardous and non-hazardous material. From July 2004, ‘non-hazardous’ sites have been only allowed to accept non-hazardous waste, while ‘hazardous’ sites can accept only hazardous materials permitted by their licences.

The Directive has banned whole tyres from landfill since 2003, with this ban extending to shredded tyres from July 2006, while liquid wastes have been banned from landfill since October 2007.

The Directive also brings with it tighter site monitoring and engineering standards. This is supplemented by the new European Waste Catalogue, which has extended the range of materials classified as ‘hazardous’, and the Waste Acceptance Criteria, which has introduced stringent pre-treatment requirements.

Since October 2007, the pre-treatment requirements of the Landfill Directive have included the need to treat all non-hazardous waste (including commercial and industrial) before it can go to landfill. This treatment must include a physical, thermal, chemical or biological process – which can include sorting – to change the characteristics of the waste to either reduce its volume, reduce its hazardous nature, facilitate its handling, or enhance its recovery.

Waste management in England in 2002/03

Recovery and recycling % Re-use and recycling
Industrial waste (excl construction and demolition waste) 35 46.5 53.7
Commercial waste 47.8 36.6 52.9
Municipal waste 75 33.1 15.6

Source: Environment Agency C&I waste survey 2002/03
and Defra’s Municipal Waste Management Survey 2002/03

Compared to industrial and commercial waste – which together came to 67.9 million tonnes according to the last Environment Agency survey undertaken in 2002/03 – the municipal waste stream is relatively small. But as the table to the right shows, the municipal fraction is trailing behind in terms of recycling and recovery. In addition to this, about 68% of municipal household waste is biodegradable, and therefore a major contributor to the production of the greenhouse gas methane, when landfilled.

For these reasons, the Landfill Directive focuses on reducing the impact of municipal waste. Because the UK is so dependent on landfill, it has been allowed an extra four years to meet European targets, leading to the following goals based on the weight of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) landfilled in 1995:

  • Reduce BMW landfilled to 75% of 1995 level by 2010
  • Reduce BMW landfilled to 50% of 1995 level by 2013
  • Reduce BMW landfilled to 35% of 1995 level by 2020

In addition, the government’s Waste Strategy for England 2007, sets the following timetable:

  • recycling and composting of household waste – at least 40% by 2010, 45% by 2015 and 50% 2020;
  • recovery of municipal waste – 53% by 2010, 67% by 2015 and 75% by 2020.

..excerpt from


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