France slow to tackle illegal landfills

France has been hauled over the coals by the European Commission for failing to close down illegal landfills or ensure they meet the standards necessary to allow them to be granted the permits which would make them legal.

Commission v France

Waste and Landfill

The European Court of Justice has held that France has failed in its obligations under Articles 4, 8 and 9 of the Waste Framework Directive and Article 14(a)-(c) of the Landfill Directive.

The Commission acknowledged that France had started to take action against illegal landfills on its territory, but pointed out that there remained a significant number of unauthorised and unlawful landfill sites in operation.

It also stated that the continued operation of these landfills, and the persistence of the situation whereby they were not controlled or authorised under law, was responsible for significant degradation of the environment.

It stated that France had not communicated to the Commission the measures decided on to upgrade each illegal landfill in operation, nor those pursuant to closing operations.

It also pointed out that in waste management plans these measures had not been detailed either, nor had measures to be taken to ensure that an authorised waste disposal company or organisation collected the waste that was currently going to unauthorised landfills.

The French Government confirmed that in addition to adopting legislation transposing the Directives, steps were taken in the mid 1990’s to close or upgrade illegal landfills, and that action in relation to closure was taken as a priority in respect of those sites where the most harmful environmental consequences appeared likely.

It stated that the French Environment Agency had developed a method of placing sites in a hierarchy for action based on various criteria relating to the potential impacts of the site on water, local residents and the landscape.

The Court pointed out that changes to law and practice after the date of the expiry of the period set out in the reasoned opinion could not be taken into account, and that at this date the French Government itself recognised that there were 1000 unauthorised landfills in France.

Two years after that, in excess of 600 of them remained, and as such France had failed in its obligations under Articles 4 and 8 of the Waste Framework Directive.

In relation to Article 9 of the Waste Framework Directive and Article 14 of the Landfill Directive, the Commission states that France had failed to take measures to ensure that companies or organisations carrying out disposal operations did so with an authorisation from the proper authority, and that it had also failed to ensure that landfill operators prepared and presented site conditioning plans to the proper authority within the allocated time.

France did not deny these allegations, and therefore the Court held that France had failed in its obligations under Article 9 of the Waste Framework Directive and Article 14 of the Landfill Directive.

The full text of the case is available in French by following this link.

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