The European Environment Council yesterday reached a political agreement on proposals for a Directive on the incineration of waste and a Directive amending Directive 94/67/EC on the incineration of hazardous waste. Once it has been formally adopted, the common position will be transmitted to the European Parliament for a second reading.

Ministers agreed to the Parliament’s proposal for a single text on waste incineration. The draft Directive aims at covering essentially all the waste not yet within the scope of Directive 94/67/EC, i.e. non-hazardous waste, non-municipal waste (e.g. tyres/sewage sludge/clinical waste) but also some hazardous waste not yet covered (waste oils and solvents).

Controls on releases to water would, for the first time, reduce the pollution from incineration of marine and fresh water eco-systems. Considerable reductions would be achieved for acid gases such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxides (SO2) and hydrogen chlorides (HCl) as well as for heavy metals. Emissions of cadmium throughout the EU are expected to decrease from 16 tonnes per year in 1995 to 1,1 tonnes and those of mercury from 36 tonnes per year to 7,1 tonnes.

The Directive would also result in a reduction of emissions of dioxins and furans from all incinerators in the Community from 2.400 grams per year in 1995 to only 10 grams after full implementation in 2005.

The draft makes a clear distinction between incineration (being stationary or mobile, with or without the recovery of the combustion heat generated) and co-incineration plants (also either stationary or mobile, such as cement kilns/steel and power plants, their main purpose being energy generation or the production of material products).

The text agreed by the Council envisages procedures for the application and granting of operating permits and sets a series of operating conditions (e.g. possible recovery of heat generated during the incineration process). It sets emission limit values for air (in particular for dust, SO2, NOx, and for heavy metals), introduces dioxins as a new parameter for discharges into water and stipulates that residues from the process shall be possibly minimised or recycled and, if not possible, disposed of only under certain conditions.

It also lays down measurement requirements and provides for consultation and access to information and participation in the permit procedure by the public.

New incinerators would have to comply with the provisions of the Directive two years after its entry into force; the deadline for existing plants would be five years.

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