According to the waste management hierarchy, landfilling is the least preferable option and should be limited to the necessary minimum. Where waste needs to be landfilled, it must be sent to landfills which comply with the requirements of Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste. The objective of the Directive is to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment, in particular on surface water, groundwater, soil, air, and on human health from the landfilling of waste by introducing stringent technical requirements for waste and landfills.
The Landfill Directive defines the different categories of waste (municipal waste, hazardous waste, non-hazardous waste and inert waste) and applies to all landfills, defined as waste disposal sites for the deposit of waste onto or into land. Landfills are divided into three classes:
- landfills for hazardous waste;
- landfills for non-hazardous waste;
- landfills for inert waste.
The Directive does not apply to:
- the spreading on the soil of sludges (including sewage sludges and sludges resulting from dredging operations);
- the use in landfills of inert waste for redevelopment or restoration work;
- the deposit of unpolluted soil or of non-hazardous inert waste resulting from prospecting and extraction, treatment and storage of mineral resources as well as from the operation of quarries;
- the deposit of non-hazardous dredging sludges alongside small waterways from which they have been dredged and of non-hazardous sludges in surface water, including the bed and its subsoil.
A standard procedure for the acceptance of waste in a landfill is laid down so as to avoid any risks, including:
- waste must be treated before being landfilled;
- hazardous waste within the meaning of the Directive must be assigned to a hazardous waste landfill;
- landfills for non-hazardous waste must be used for municipal waste and for other non-hazardous waste;
- landfill sites for inert waste must be used only for inert waste;
- criteria for the acceptance of waste at each landfill class must be adopted by the Commission in accordance with the general principles of Annex II.
The following wastes may not be accepted in a landfill:
- liquid waste;
- flammable waste;
- explosive or oxidising waste;
- hospital and other clinical waste which is infectious;
- used tyres, with certain exceptions;
- any other type of waste which does not meet the acceptance criteria laid down in Annex II.
The Directive sets up a system of operating permits for landfill sites. Applications for permits must contain the following information:
- the identity of the applicant and, in some cases, of the operator;
- a description of the types and total quantity of waste to be deposited;
- the capacity of the disposal site;
- a description of the site;
- the proposed methods for pollution prevention and abatement;
- the proposed operation, monitoring and control plan;
- the plan for closure and aftercare procedures;
- the applicant's financial security;
- an impact assessment study, where required under Council Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment.
Member States must ensure that existing landfill sites may not continue to operate unless they comply with the provisions of the Directive.