The Waste Framework Directive lays down some basic waste management principles. It requires that waste be managed
- without endangering human health and harming the environment
- without risk to water, air, soil, plants or animals
- without causing a nuisance through noise or odours
- and without adversely affecting the countryside or places of special interest
It explains when waste ceases to be waste and becomes a secondary raw material, and how to distinguish between waste and by-products. The Directive also introduces the "polluter pays principle" and the "extended producer responsibility".
The foundation of EU waste management is the five-step “waste hierarchy”, established in the Waste Framework Directive. It establishes an order of preference for managing and disposing of waste.
To comply with the objectives of this Directive, EU countries shall take the necessary measures to achieve the following targets
- by 2020, the preparing for re-use and the recycling of waste materials (such as paper, metal, plastic and glass) from households shall be increased to a minimum of overall 50 % by weight
- by 2020, the preparing for re-use, recycling and other material recovery, including backfilling operations using waste to substitute other materials, of non-hazardous construction and demolition waste shall be increased to a minimum of 70 % by weight
- by 2025, the preparing for re-use and the recycling of municipal waste shall be increased to a minimum of 55 %, 60% and 65% by weight by 2025, 2030 and 2035 respectively
The rules and calculation methods for verifying compliance with these targets can be found in Commission Decision 2011/753/EU. Additional rules for the calculation, verification and reporting of data on waste in accordance with the amended Waste Framework Directive can be found in Commission Decision (EU) 2019/1004.
The Commission provides guidance on municipal waste data collection, which can be found here.
Hazardous wastes pose a greater risk to the environment and human health than non-hazardous waste and therefore require a stricter control regime.
The Waste Framework Directive provides additional labelling, record keeping, monitoring and control obligations from the "cradle to the grave", in other words from the waste production to the final disposal or recovery. It also bans the mixing of hazardous waste with other categories of hazardous waste, and with non-hazardous waste.
The classification into hazardous and non-hazardous waste is based on the system for the classification and labelling of dangerous substances and preparations. This ensures that similar principles are applied over the whole life cycle of materials.
For more information on the classification of all types of waste (including hazardous), see the European List of Waste.
The Waste Framework Directive defines by-products as a substance or object, resulting from a production process, the primary aim of which is not the production of that item. By-products can come from a wide range of business sectors, and can have very different environmental impacts. It is important to classify by-products correctly to avoid environmental damage or unnecessary costs for business.
End-of-waste criteria specify when certain waste ceases to be waste and becomes a product, or a secondary raw material.
According to Article 6 (1) and (2) of the Waste Framework Directive, certain specified waste ceases to be waste when it has undergone a recovery operation (including recycling) and complies with specific criteria, in particular when
- the substance or object is commonly used for specific purposes
- there is an existing market or demand for the substance or object
- the use is lawful (substance or object fulfils the technical requirements for the specific purposes and meets the existing legislation and standards applicable to products)
- the use will not lead to overall adverse environmental or human health impacts
This criteria for specific materials is set by the Commission through the “comitology” procedure. A mandate to set end-of-waste criteria was introduced to provide a high level of environmental protection and an environmental and economic benefit. They aim to further encourage recycling in the EU by creating legal certainty and a level playing field as well as removing unnecessary administrative burden.
How are the end-of-waste criteria being developed?
A methodology to develop the criteria has been published by the Joint Research Centre.
The Commission is preparing a set of end-of-waste criteria for priority waste streams. These criteria have been laid down for
Find out more about how the EU helps member countries to implement the Waste Framework Directive. Read about implementation reports, the European List of Waste, guidance documents and Waste Prevention Programmes.
2023 WFD revision
Despite existing legislation, municipal waste generation has increased over the last decade. Low recycling rates, as well as lower quality recyclates, are in part due to inefficient waste-collection systems. For some specific streams, such as waste oils and textile, evidence indicated that the polluter pays principle is not fully implemented and that some waste may be illegally disposed of, leading to pollution.
Therefore, the Commission is currently working on a targeted revision of the Waste Framework Directive. This revision aims to improve the overall environmental outcome of waste management in line with the waste hierarchy and the implementation of the polluter pays principle, potentially via Extended Producer Responsiblity schemes. It will focus on the following policy areas: prevention, separate collection, waste oils and textiles.
The Call for Evidence was published in January and February 2022, and the Commission received just under 200 separate responses. A large number of the respondents reflected on the need to address consumption and promote direct re-use and design for circularity in order to address waste prevention. A large number of respondents supported the concept that separate collection is a precondition for improving reuse and recycling and several respondents highlighted the importance of packaging waste in this respect. Several business associations mentioned the importance of EPR schemes, particularly for textiles.
A broader set of consultations is planned in the first half of 2022 to ensure that all relevant stakeholders are given an opportunity to express their views on the current performance of the WFD, what is working well or not, and how it could be improved. The main stakeholders are national authorities, producers and producer responsibility organisations, waste collectors and recyclers, households and businesses, NGOs and scientific experts. As part of those efforts, the public consultation is open for feedback until 16 August 2022. More information is on Have Your Say: WFD revision.
The Waste Framework Directive provides for review clauses on prevention measures, food waste, and waste oils. The European Green Deal includes a political commitment to ‘simplify waste management for citizens and ensure cleaner secondary materials for businesses’. Furthermore, the Circular Economy Action Plan commits to significantly reducing total waste generation: it aims to halve the amount of residual (non-recycled) municipal waste by 2030, promote safer and cleaner waste streams, and ensure high-quality recycling. This initiative will integrate the initiative for the reduction of food waste, as the latter constitutes a significant share of municipal waste.
In line with Better Regulation, the Commission will draft an impact assessment report based on several technical studies and a study in support of this revision to set out the options and assess their impacts that was launched in December 2021.
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