Archive for category Environmental law – EU

Tronex: Reverse logistics and waste back at the CJEU.

I have review of Shell at the CJEU here, and final judgment in Rotterdam here. Next Thursday the hearing takes places in C-624/17 Tronex which echoes many of the issues in Shell. When, if at all, is the definition of waste triggered in a reverse logistics chain: with a focus on the relationships between the various professional parties in the chain (that the consumer is not handling waste when returning a product in these circumstances is now fairly established).

Questions referred are below.

Geert.

Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015, OUP, 1.166 ff and 1.189 ff.

 

Question 1

1.    (a) Is a retailer which sends back an object returned by a consumer, or an object in its product range that has become redundant, to its supplier (namely the importer, wholesaler, distributor, producer or anyone else from whom it has obtained the object) pursuant to the agreement between the retailer and its supplier to be regarded as a holder which discards the object, within the meaning of Article 3.1 of the Framework Directive? 1

(b) Would the answer to Question 1.(1) be different if the object is one which has an easily repairable fault or defect?

(c) Would the answer to Question 1.(1) be different if the object is one which has a fault or defect of such extent or severity that it is, as a result, no longer suitable or usable for its original purpose?

Question 2

2.    (a) Is a retailer or supplier which sells on an object returned by a consumer, or an object in its product range which has become redundant, to a buyer (of residual consignments) to be regarded as a holder which discards the object, within the meaning of Article 3.1 of the Framework Directive?

(b) Is the answer to Question 2.(1) affected by the amount of the purchase price to be paid by the buyer to the retailer or supplier?

(c) Would the answer to Question 2.(1) be different if the object is one which has an easily repairable fault or defect?

(d) Would the answer to Question 2.(1) be different if the object is one which has a fault or defect of such extent or severity that it is, as a result, no longer suitable or usable for its original purpose?

Question 3

3.    (a) Is the buyer which sells on to a (foreign) third party a large consignment of goods bought from retailers and suppliers and returned by consumers, and/or goods that have become redundant, to be regarded as a holder which discards a consignment of goods, within the meaning of Article 3.1 of the Framework Directive?

(b) Is the answer to Question 3.(1) affected by the amount of the purchase price to be paid by the third party to the buyer?

(c) Would the answer to Question 3.(1) be different if the consignment of goods also contains some goods which have an easily repairable fault or defect?

(d) Would the answer to Question 3.(1) be different if the consignment of goods also contains some goods which have a fault or defect of such extent or severity that the object in question is no longer, as a result, suitable or usable for its original purpose?

(e) Is the answer to Questions 3.(3) or 3.(4) affected by the percentage of the whole consignment of the goods sold on to the third party that is made up of defective goods? If so, what percentage is the tipping point?

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AS Tallinna Vesi: Kokott AG on sludge and end of waste.

Case C-60/18 AS Tallinna Vesi could have been, as Advocate General Kokott noted yesterday, about much more. In particular about the exact scope of the Waste Framework Directive’s exclusion for sewage sludge and the relation between the WFD, the waste water Directive and the sewage sludge Directive. However the referring court at least for the time being sees no issue there (the AG’s comments may trigger the applicant into making it an issue, one imagines) and the AG therefore does not entertain it.

Instead the case focusses on whether waste may no longer be regarded as such only if and after it has been recovered as a product which complies with the general standards laid down as being applicable to it? And on whether, alternatively, a waste holder be permitted to request that the competent authorities decide, on a case-by-case basis and irrespective of whether any product standards are in place, whether waste is no longer to be regarded as such.

Ms Kokott emphasises the wide margin of discretion which the Member States have in implementing the Directive. End of waste criteria at the national level (in the absence of EU criteria) may not always be warranted particularly in the context of sewage sludge which is often hazardous. However precisely that need for ad hoc assessment should be mirrored by the existence of a procedure for waste operators to apply ad hoc for clarification on end of waste status.

Geert.

Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015, OUP, 1.166 ff and 1.189 ff.

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Wahl AG proposes inadmissability in TPS-NOLO (Geobal): Take-back of ‘waste’, relation with REACH.

Another interesting waste-case at the CJEU last week, although unfortunately one in which Wahl AG proposes inadmissibility. In C-399/17 EC v Czech Republic, the question is whether the Czech Republic has infringed the waste shipments Regulation 1013/2006 by refusing to take back a substance known as TPS-NOLO (or Geobal) that had been shipped to Poland without respecting the requisite formalities of the Waste Shipment Regulation.

Approximately 20 000 tonnes of TPS-NOLO (Geobal) and composed of tar acid, a remnant after refining oil (code 05 01 07* of the European waste catalogue), of carbon dust and of calcium oxide. Poland considered the substance to be hazardous waste classified in Annex IV to the Waste Shipment Regulation (‘Waste tarry residues (excluding asphalt cements) arising from refining, distillation and any pyrolitic treatment of organic materials’).  The Czech citizen responsible for the shipment to Poland presented the standards adopted by the company as well as proof that the substance in question was registered under the REACH Regulation and that it was used as fuel.

The case raises interesting issues therefore on the relationship between REACH and Waste, on which I have written briefly inter alia here and, more extensively and with Dr Thomas de Romph, here. At 3 already, Wahl signals that his Opinion will not however lead to findings on the merits of the case: ‘ Finding that there was no infringement in the present case could potentially weaken the effectiveness and enforceability of the Waste Shipment Regulation, whose main and predominant object and component is protection of the environment. However, courts are guided, first and foremost, by procedural principles that ensure a due process in each individual case. Those principles cannot be sacrificed in order to further a greater cause, as noble as it might be.’

The due process issues essentially relate to the European Commission’s handling of the infringement procedure, in which, the AG suggests proprio motu,  it did not formulate a proper statement of claim. Details are in the Opinion and readers are best referred to it.

Now, there is no such thing as double jeopardy when it comes to infringement proceedings hence one can only hope that the Commission services will reinitiate the proceedings (lest of course the CJEU disagree with the AG’s Opinion).

Geert.

Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015, OUP, i.a.at para 1.201.

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Swedish Match: Snus, precaution and the gateway effect.

A short update on the Court of Justice’s ruling in C-151/17 Swedish Match, in which yesterday it upheld the legality of Directive 2014/40’s ban on ‘snus’ and generally on tobacco products for oral consumption. (Sweden is exempt: Article 15(1) of the 1994 Act of Accession).

The Court reaffirms the bite of the precautionary principle; emphasises the ‘gateway effect’ of snus for the young, including intern alia because consumption of snus can be done very discreetly and hence enforcement of an age ban (a suggested alternative) not effective; and the importance of giving precedence to public health over economic profit.

It also, yet again, shows that measures like these do not fall out of thin air because, as proponents of the precautionary principle would suggest, anti-innovation zealots dream up restrictive measures to kill enterprise. Rather, following extensive scientific advice, the ban is a sensible and proportionate measure to take.

Geert.

EU Environmental Law, with Dr Leonie Reins, 2017, Chapter 2, Heading IV.

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Mirror entries in EU (hazardous) waste law. Campos Sánchez-Bordona AG in Verlezza et al. I.a. a useful reminder of the true meaning of precaution.

Joined Cases C-487/C-489/17 Alfonso Verlezza et al, in which Campos Sánchez-Bordona AG opined  last week, (no version in English available) is one of those rather technical EU environmental law cases which for that reason risks being overlooked by many. This is even more the case in EU waste law. Many of its provisions are subject to criminal law sanctions, hence encouraging defendants to take its application to the most intricate of corners so as to avoid a criminal conviction.

Verlezza et al concerns the implementation by Italy of a notoriously tricky part of EU waste law: the determination of wastes as being ‘hazardous’. Clearly, these wastes are subject to a range of stricter measures than ordinary wastes. Interestingly, while these wastes are more dangerous than ordinary wastes, they are often also more attractive to waste industries: for as secondary raw materials they may have high value (one can think of cartridges, batteries, heavy metals).

Protracted to and fro at the time between the European Commission and the Member States plus Parliament (which I explain in relevant chapter of my Handbook of EU Waste law; which I am pleased to note the AG refers to), eventually led to a regime with two or if one likes three categories: wastes considered per se hazardous; and wastes which may be considered hazardous or not, depending on whether or not they display hazardous properties in the case at issue (hence three categories: hazardous per se; non-hazardous and hazardous in concreto). This latter category are the so-called ‘mirror entries’: wastes originating from the same source which depending on the specifics of the case, may be hazardous or not.

Wastes produced by households (‘domestic waste’) are not considered hazardous. However the AG emphasises correctly that this exemption from the hazardous waste regime (via Article 20 of the waste framework Directive, 2008/98) does not apply to the case at issue, given that the ‘domestic’ wastes concerned have already been mechanically sorted. It is the qualification of the waste residues following sorting that needs to be resolved.

The mirror entries are the result of heated debate between the Institutions. The EC was hesitant to provide a binding list given the need for individual assessment; Council and EP were looking for regulatory certainty. In the end, Member States may (indeed have to)  consider waste as hazardous when the material displays one or more of the hazardous properties listed in Annex to the EU list of waste. This also requires the Member States to issue a procedure which guides this assessment.  It is the specifics of the Italian procedure (producers have to classify specific streams of waste as either hazardous or not; they have to carry out the necessary scientific tests; they are bound by the precautionary principle) which have triggered the case at issue.

At 19 the AG refers to the discussion in Italian scholarship: one part among others on the basis of the precautionary principle defends a reversal of the burden of proof: waste in the mirror entries is considered hazardous unless industry proves its non-hazardous characteristics; the other part proposes that scientific analysis needs to determine hazardousness in each specific case (quoting the sustainable development of the sector in support).

The AG opines that the Italian modus operandi needs to be given the green light, among others referring to the recent April 2018 EC guidance on wastes classification and the criteria defined in the Directive, which render a waste hazardous: producers of waste are perfectly capable indeed in the Directive’s set-up have to assess the hazardous character of the waste and the Italian regulations are a capable way of ensuring this.

The defendants’ ultimate argument that the precautionary principle should allow them to consider waste as hazardous even without such assessment, also fails: scientific assessment is able to determine a substance’s hazardous characteristics.  Defendants’ approach would lead to all mirror entries being defined as hazardous. The Directive’s principle of cost benefit analysis ensures this does not lead to excessive testing-  proportionate testing for properties will do the job. (It may be surprising that the defendants make this argument; but remember: in a criminal procedure all arguments are useful to try and torpedo national law or practice upon which a prosecution is based; without a valid law,, no prosecution).

This latter part of the Opinion, related to the precautionary principle, is a useful reminder to its opponents (who came out in force following this summer’s mutagenesis ruling; for excellent review of which see KJ Garnett here), of the principle’ true meaning.

Geert.

Handbook of EU Waste law, 2nd ed. 2015, OUP, Chapter 2, Heading 2. ff (to which the AG refers).

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Access to information: The Court of Justice acts to prevent water under the bridge in Client Earth.

Access to information ironically is subject to a myriad of rules and regulations at the EU level: some of a general nature (particularly: Regulation 1049/2001), some lex specialis (such as Directive 2003/35 and Regulation 1367/2006), but with a complex relationship between lex generalis and lex specialis. Add to the mix in the environmental field, public international law in the form of the Aarhus Convention and, well, what you get is an awful lot of regulatory intransparency. Leonie and I have made an attempt succinctly to summarise same in Chapter 5 of our Handbook on EU environmental law.

In C‑57/16 P Client Earth v EC, the CJEU’s Grand Chamber set aside a General Court judgment which had earlier sided largely with the EC viz two requests of information: the first of those requests sought access to the impact assessment report drawn up by the Commission on the implementation of the ‘access to justice’ pillar of the Aarhus Convention, while the second sought access to the impact assessment carried out by the Commission on the revision of the EU legal framework on environmental inspections and surveillance at national and EU level. Both were refused on the ground for exception provided in Regulation 1049/2001, that ‘access to a document, drawn up by an institution for internal use or received by an institution, which relates to a matter where the decision has not been taken by the institution, shall be refused if disclosure of the document would seriously undermine the institution’s decision-making process, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.’

The Grand Chamber essentially held that access should be granted: core of its reasoning is at para 92: ‘Although the submission of a legislative proposal by the Commission is, at the impact assessment stage, uncertain, the disclosure of those documents is likely to increase the transparency and openness of the legislative process as a whole, in particular the preparatory steps of that process, and, thus, to enhance the democratic nature of the European Union by enabling its citizens to scrutinise that information and to attempt to influence that process. As is asserted, in essence, by Client Earth, such a disclosure, at a time when the Commission’s decision-making process is still ongoing, enables citizens to understand the options envisaged and the choices made by that institution and, thus, to be aware of the considerations underlying the legislative action of the European Union. In addition, that disclosure puts those citizens in a position effectively to make their views known regarding those choices before those choices have been definitively adopted, so far as both the Commission’s decision to submit a legislative proposal and the content of that proposal, on which the legislative action of the European Union depends, are concerned.

Essentially: a true transparent policy process requires citisens to be able to impact the flow of the water before it disappears under the bridge.

EC Institutions continue to fight rearguard actions against transparency, which subsequently have to be addressed by the likes of Client Earth. The CJEU could not be clearer in highlighting the patch access to EU policy should continue to follow.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Environmental Law, first ed.2017, Chapter 5. (With Leonie Reins).

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Climate change litigation reaches the CJEU’s desk.

One can say many things about climate change litigation by individuals. (See my earlier piece on the Dutch Urgenda case). Many argue that the separation of powers suggest that governments, not judges, should be making climate policy. Or that international environmental law lacks the type of direct effect potentially required for it to be validly invoked by citisens. Others point to the duty of care of Governments; to binding – even if fluffy – climate change obligations taken on since at least the 1990s, and to the utter lack of progress following more than 25 years of international climate change law.

It is therefore no surprise to see that this type of litigation has now also reached the European Court of Justice: the text of the application is here, see also brief legal (by Olivia Featherstone) and Guardian background.

Like cases before it, colleagues shy of preparation materials for an international environmental law course, with comparative EU law thrown in, can use the case to hinge an entire course on.

As Olivia reports, the legal principles involved are the following:

The claimants state that EU emissions leading to climate change are contrary to:

  • The principle of equality (Articles 20 and 21, EU Charter)
  • The principle of sustainable development (Article 3 TEU, Article 11 TFEU)
  • Article 37 EU Charter
  • Article 3 UNFCCC
  • The no harm principle in international law
  • Article 191 ff TFEU (the EU’s environmental policy

One to watch.

Geert.

EU Environmental Law, with Leonie Reins, Edward Elgar, 1st ed. 2017, part I Chapter 2 in particular.

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