The main environmental threat from biowaste is the production of methane in landfills, which accounted for some 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-15 in 1995. The Landfill Directive 1999/31/EC obliges Member States to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste that they landfill to 35% of 1995 levels by 2016, which will significantly reduce the problem. The Commission's priority is to ensure that Member States comply with this legal requirement fully and on time.
The Member States have a number of choices that they can take in terms of alternative treatment for this biodegradable waste, taking into account local conditions such as climatic conditions to the composition of the collected biowaste. These choices must be taken in a transparent manner - this is why the Commission proposed in the draft Waste Framework Directive to require Member States to include these choices in their national waste management plans. This proposal also requires Member States to assess to what extent their choice of options for the management of biowaste contributes to the environmental objectives defined in the Directive. To support the Member States in this future legal obligation, the Commission will provide criteria, in the form of a guidance document, to help with identifying the environmentally best option for the management of biowaste in the various countries and regions.
One potential option is composting. Actions that need to be taken at the EU level to promote composting include the definition of quality standards for compost so that markets for compost can develop. The Commission will start working on the standards in 2007, so that they are available when the revised Waste Framework Directive enters into force following adoption by the Council and the European Parliament. This will play an important role in helping the Member States to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to composting policies, the lack of user confidence and market acceptance.
It is also necessary to develop high environmental standards that can apply to facilities in which biological treatment takes place. This will be achieved through the upcoming review of the Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (96/61/EC) under which national authorities issue permits for major industrial and agricultural installations based on the concept of Best Available Techniques (BAT).
Lastly, the upcoming Thematic Strategy on Soil will address the wider subject of carbon depletion in soil and how to avoid and remedy it. This will take into account the potential of using compost as a means to increase the carbon content of soil.
It will take the Member States some time to implement environmentally sound management of biowaste and the Commission will revisit the issue in the review of the Thematic Strategy on waste prevention and recycling in 2010. This review will assess the progress of the Member States and the need for additional measures, including additional legislative measures on top of the legislative measures already proposed in the Strategy package.
Following the provision of Thematic Strategy on Prevention and Recycling of Waste (COM 2005 (666) final) concerning need to address compost standards at EU level and responding to the call made in art. 22 of Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) requesting the Commission to carry out an assessment on the management of bio-waste with a view to submitting a proposal if appropriate the Commission started preparatory work on potential legislative proposal on bio-waste.
1. Green Paper
The first step in that process is the Green Paper on the Management of Bio-waste in the EU.
Green Paper on the Management of Bio-waste in the EU
Working Document accompanying the Green Paper
Contributions to the consultation process should be sent to the Commission by 15 March 2009 by email to: ENV-BIOWASTE@ec.europa.eu or by post to: European Commission, Directorate-General Environment, Unit G4 Sustainable Production and Consumption, B1049 Brussels.
The received comments will be published at the following website (CIRCA site).
2. Impact Assessment
The second step is the preparation of an Impact Assessment of a potential legislative proposal. The general objective of this activity is to look into ways of improving the way in which bio-waste is managed in the EU, and to provide an appropriate assessment of policy options, including the environmental, economic and social impacts, as well as prospective risks/opportunities.
The task include among others:
Provision of analysis and synthesis of other consultations, studies and an overview of the state-of-the-art knowledge as a contribution to the impact assessment;
Estimation of the production of Biowaste and their possible treatment on the basis of existing legislation;
Support to an overall assessment of policy options and their relative merits.
The assessment will include a baseline scenario in terms of policies and practices across the EU over the next 10 years and their possible implications on the production and treatment of bio-waste for each Member States and at EU 27 level. Based on the baseline scenario, an assessment will be undertaken of the likely benefits and costs of additional or changed policy measures on the management of bio-waste in the EU (including for instance an obligation of separate collection or recycling targets for bio-waste) when compared to the existing and planned policies. The assessment shall verify if the current policy measures are sufficient to address the issue of proper bio-waste management and whether additional measures on bio-waste management would deliver significant improvements.
This assessment will build on the existing studies and knowledge and fill any identified knowledge and data gaps in order to provide a full picture of the current situation and the future needs.
It is currently expected that the additional measures to be assessed will include the options already proposed in "Preliminary Impact Assessment for an Initiative on the Biological Treatment of Biodegradable Waste" (see "studies" below) i.e.
a) setting compost standards;
b) setting compost standards and recycling target for bio-waste (common to all Member States);
c) compost standards and recycling targets to be set for individual Member States
and an additional fourth measure, to be determined.
The final set of options to be assessed shall be based on the results of the Green Paper consultations and the present preparatory work of the project team.
Within the framework of the project at least one open (online) consultation is envisaged. It is tentatively scheduled for August and September 2009.
Stakeholders and researchers who would like to be notified about the consultations for this study are invited to send an email to: ENV-BIOWASTE@ec.europa.eu with your name, organisation and contact details. Member States will be notified automatically.
You may also use this address to inform the project team about any relevant studies or information that may be valuable for the assessment.
During preparation of Impact Assessment the Commission will be assisted by ARCADIS Belgium and Eunomia Research & Consulting, which have received the contract to support the Commission in this task.
Announcement of the conference "Biowaste - Need for EU legislation?"
Hotel reservation form - hotel "Leopold"
Hotel reservation form - hotel "Euroflat"
Please register no later than 15th of May 2009.
Preparation of guidance on biowaste management
As foreseen in Communication COM(2005)666 on the Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste the Commission is preparing guidelines addressed to policy makers on the application of life cycle thinking to biowaste management policies.
Updated information can be found at the JRC website devoted to the European life cycle thinking guidelines for the management of municipal biodegradable waste.
Success stories on composting and separate collection
Applying Compost - Benefits and Needs
The Commission supports extensive research in the area of biodegradable plastics. The Community funded BIOMAT website gives details on the extensive amount of bioplastic research that has been carried out over the past 15 years under the different framework programmes. There is substantial potential for research projects on bioplastics under the Seventh Framework Programme (2006 - 2010) across several themes, and particularily from the biorefinery and microbial routes. For more information on Community funding opportunities for research, see also: http://cordis.europa.eu/en/home.html.