Regione Veneto v Plan Eco. CJEU restricts waste classification shopping for mixed municipal wastes.

Judgment in Case C-315/20 Regione Veneto v Plan Eco Srl Is a classic case discussing the scope for Member States to restrict transboundary movements of waste under the Waste Shipments Regulation 1013/2006 (‘WSR). As summarised (2) by Advocate General Rantos, it raises the question whether the classification, in one Member State, of mixed municipal waste in accordance with the European Waste Catalogue (EWC), following mechanical treatment which has not substantially altered the original properties of that waste, interferes with the application of the EU legislation on the shipment of that waste to another Member State.

Transport company Plan Eco submitted to the Veneto Region a request for prior consent to the shipment of 2000 tonnes of mixed municipal waste produced in Italy by Futura Srl to a cement factory in Slovenia (cement kilns are a classic destination for waste for combustion). That waste, of which parties agreed it was not hazardous, was treated mechanically by Futura, with a view to its use in co-combustion, and classified by Futura, after that treatment, under code 19 12 12 (Bottom ash and slag (incinerator bottom ash)) of the EWC. The Veneto Region suggested the waste was mixed municipal waste (code 20 03 01 EWC) and objected to shipment on the grounds that national waste management plans prescribe that mixed municipal waste be recovered in one of the nearest appropriate installations to the place of its production or collection. A Veneto Region facility had  signalled it had capacity to deal with the waste. A classic scenario therefore of a region wanting to keep the waste within its borders so as to satisfy the waste need for local installations.

The Waste Shipments Regulation had, controversially, inserted Article 3(5) which provides that shipments of ‘mixed municipal waste (waste entry 20 03 01) collected from private households, including where such collection also covers such waste from other producers, to recovery or disposal facilities’ are, in accordance with that regulation, subject to the same provisions (Article 11’s principles of self-sufficiency and proximity in particular) as shipments of waste destined for disposal: that means, it gives national and regional authorities more room for manoeuvre to refuse shipments than they would have for waste destined for recovery operations. The Court had earlier (Case C-292/12 Ragn-Sells) confirmed that applicability of Article 11 WSR in principle, without properly addressing the free movement of goods and free movement of services implications.

[27] the Court turns, frustratingly (for in my view binding statutory law should be included in the provisions proper of secondary law, not in their recitals) to Recital 33 of the Waste Framework Directive 2008/98, to hold that mixed municipal waste as referred to in Article 3(5) WSR remains mixed municipal waste even when it has been subject to a waste treatment operation that has not substantially altered its properties. Veneto’s room for refusal therefore widens.

The judgment in this case takes on a new meaning within the context of Brexit, for quite a few of these waste streams have the United Kingdom as their ultimate destination, hence enjoying principled free movement of goods under WTO and UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement rules.

Geert.

 

Belgian Council of State highlights authorities’ duty of care in assessing BAT (Export of waste).

The Belgian Council of State (the highest administrative court) has annulled the Flemish waste agency’s export permit in the so-called ‘Slufter’ case, involving large quantities of toxic dredging spoil (for the aficionados: classified as EURAL 17 05 05*; ia with heavy doses of tributyltin – TBT) dredged from the port of Antwerp. The case made by applicants was that the waste would be disposed of in the port of Rotterdam’s ‘slufter’ by way of mere dumping, as opposed to processing ‘at home’ in the Flemish region.

At issue was Article 11 of the Waste shipments Regulation 1013/2006, which allows Member States of export to object to planned shipments of waste destined for disposal. Applicants’ case was that the Flemish waste agency – OVAM should have disallowed the shipment on the basis of the proximity and the self-sufficiency principles. OVAM however pointed out that even if in optimal circumstances, processing in Flanders could lead to higher rates of recovery of the waste, much of it would still simply have to be landfilled. Importantly, it preferred disposal in the Slufter on the basis that the logistics chain was much shorter: load up, transport, dump. As opposed to load up, transport to processing facility for partial recovery (involving three separate processes); load-up of the solid waste left; transport and dump.

The Council of State ruled at the end of May that this decision by OVAM, in particular the reliance of the extent of the logistics chain, lacks proper assessment of the Best Available Technologies for dredging spoil, hence leading to insufficient assessment of the proximity and self-sufficiency principles. The ruling is relevant also with a view to the remainder of the spoil that will continue to be dredged.

For easy of reference (for those wishing to locate copy of the ruling): case numbers are 238220 -238224 included).

Geert.

Italcave confirms shortcomings to ‘household’ /’domestic’ /’municipal’ waste definition

In 2008, the Waste Framework Directive was amended (Directive 2008/98) among others to give Member States more leeway in restricting exports of municipal waste.

Article 16(1) WFD now provides

1. Member States shall take appropriate measures, in cooperation with other Member States where this is necessary or advisable, to establish an integrated and adequate network of waste disposal installations and of installations for the recovery of mixed municipal waste collected from private households, including where such collection also covers such waste from other producers, taking into account best available techniques.

By way of derogation from Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006, Member States may, in order to protect their network, limit incoming shipments of waste destined to incinerators that are classified as recovery, where it has been established that such shipments would result in national waste having to be disposed of or waste having to be treated in a way that is not consistent with their waste management plans. Member States shall notify the Commission of any such decision. Member States may also limit outgoing shipments of waste on environmental grounds as set out in Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006.

The waste at issue is also known as ‘household’ or ‘domestic’ waste. It is not precisely defined in the WFD, although there are various indications pointing to the origin of the waste being relevant: municipal waste is waste collected from private households. (Things are confused by waste collected from industry sometimes being assimilated with ‘household’ waste, namely when its composition is considered ‘similar’; here of course confusion enters. For domestic waste itself would seem to be defined not by its composition but rather by its origin (even though that origin often betrays its composition)).

In Italcave, the Italian Council of State held on the categorisation of waste originating from shredding, sifting and packaging plants (also known as STIR). Thank you to Lucciano Butti for alerting me to the case.

This is where my input ends, I fear: I should like to hear from those possessing knowledge of Italian beyond my limited, summer holiday driven capabilities (and shall update this posting accordingly). From what I understand, the treatment of the waste was relevant in determining the issue however nature of that treatment, and the wastes’ origin and composition is at this stage not entirely clear to me.

Geert.

 

Ragn-Sells: Court leaves open violation of primary EU law by waste shipments Regulation – Free movement of services question left unanswered

The ECJ’s December judgment in Ragn-Sells Case C-292/12 came recently to my attention in revisiting the waste ownership and freedom to provide services question for a brief.  The case concerns the combined application of the waste framework Directive, the waste shipments Regulation, the public procurement Directives, the free movement of goods and of services, and, for good measure, competition law, exclusive rights and abuse of dominant position.

The dispute in the main proceedings concerns the lawfulness of contract documents stipulating that mixed municipal waste had to be transported to the landfill facility which was the subject-matter of an earlier public procurement procedure — located 5 km from the contracting town, whilst industrial and building waste was to be taken to a landfill site, located 25 km away.

Not all of these issues were addressed by the ECJ, though: for the issue relating to competition law /creation of exclusive rights which might lead to abuse of dominant position, not enough information had been furnished by the national court.For the issue of free movement of services, there was nothing in the file submitted to the Court indicating that undertakings established in other Member States have been interested in treating waste produced in the territory of the municipality at issue.

The latter especially is a pity (on the competition issue there is plenty of case-law): for the extent of free movement of services in the waste sector (and environmental services generally), is not at all clearly laid out in case-law. Hint for those wanting to use free movement of services arguments in their struggle against restrictive national measures: ensure paper trail of, or indeed if need be, trigger, foreign interest in the waste streams provided.

The Court did entertain the free movement of goods questions. As regards, first of all, waste destined for disposal operations and mixed municipal waste, it follows, the Court held, from Article 11(1)(a) of Regulation No 1013/2006, read in the light of recital 20 in the preamble thereto, and Article 16 of Directive 2008/98, that the Member States may adopt measures of general application restricting shipments of that waste between Member States, in the form of general or partial prohibitions of shipments, by way of implementation of the principles of proximity, priority for recovery and self-sufficiency under Directive 2008/98. By analogy the court then applied Case C‑209/98 Sydhavnens to find eventually that ‘Accordingly, in the case of waste destined for disposal operations and mixed municipal waste collected from private households and, as applicable, other producers, a Member State may confer on local authorities, on the geographical scale it deems appropriate, powers to manage the waste produced on their territory in order to ensure compliance with its obligations under Article 16 of Directive 2008/98. Those authorities may, as part of the powers conferred upon them, provide that those types of waste will be treated in the nearest appropriate facility (at 63).

I continue to argue that especially with respect to mixed municipal waste, this room for manoeuvre provided for by the Regulation combined with the Directive, itself is incompatible with primary EU law. However I am not sure how much longer I can argue that as a result of judicial economy, the ECJ has never really properly addressed this question.

As regards, secondly, shipments of waste destined for recovery operations, other than mixed municipal waste, the Court by contrast held that the combined effect of Regulation and Waste Framework Directive does not provide for the possibility for a national authority to adopt a measure of general application having the effect of prohibiting, totally or partially, shipments of such waste to other Member States for treatment.

In summary, some remaining doubt re free movement of goods (primacy EU law) in my mind. Undoubtedly a lot of remaining doubt re free movement of services. Waste law and free movement: they continue to fascinate!

Geert.

 

 

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