Article Contaminated Land

The Landfill Directive – Nightmare or Opportunity

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[These notes were made after attending an EIC Seminar on the Landfill Directive held on 31 March 04. They represent the view of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AGS.]


The European Landfill Directive (EC 2003/33) is due to be transposed into UK Law by 16 July 04, and be fully effective from 16 July 05. Transition arrangements for waste acceptance criteria will be in place from July 04 to July 05.

Legislative Background

The Landfill Directive sits with the Hazardous Waste Directive and the Waste Framework Directive.

The latter two have been in force for a number of years but will be effected by the Landfill Directive.

An updated European Waste Catalogue (EWC 2002) has now been published and this sets out which materials are (or potentially are) hazardous.

The EWC gives absolute and mirror entries. Absolute are classified as hazardous irrespective of their composition whereas mirror entries need to be checked for contaminants (both type and concentration).

The classification links back to CHIP3 regulations which are published by the HSE.

Waste sent to landfill will now be classified as hazardous or non-hazardous. The use of ‘inert’ seems no longer applicable.

Waste acceptance criteria (WAC) are shortly to be approved by the European Council and these will link into the Landfill Directive. The WAC require leaching tests to be carried out and limit a number of criteria which cannot be exceeded (eg TOC never above 6%). WAC is not due to be introduced until 2005 and interim criteria will be established to fill the gap.

The principle regulations

  • Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999

  • The Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002

  • The Landfill (Scotland) Regulations 2003

  • The Landfill (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2004

The Landfill Directive’s Rules

All hazardous waste sent to landfill must be pre-treated from July 04. No definition has been given as to what this means. However some reduction quantity and / or hazardous nature will have to be achieved.

Dilution (eg mixing of non-hazardous with hazardous) will be illegal from July 04.

Co-disposal is illegal from July 04 and sites will only be licensed to receive hazardous or non-hazardous. The most significant issue is that the number of sites licensed to receive hazardous waste will reduce from slightly less that 200 to about 10. Of these none re are located in Wales or the South East of England.


The latest definition of waste within the UK is that waste ‘shall mean any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’.

The hierarchy of waste treatment is re-use, reclaim, recover and recycle.

A waste remains as waste until complete recovery has taken place or the substance is put to its final use. It does not cease to be waste if someone intends to use it, if it has a value, if it is ready to recycle or if it is not polluting.

Environment Agency guidance indicates that all excavated contaminated land would be classified as waste.

It would appear that even excavated ‘clean’ soil on site may be classified as waste and thus and re-use would fall within the waste management licensing regulations.

What it all means

Despite the assembled hoard of experts at the Seminar, no-one really knew!

Confusion and uncertainty surround the issue, although something must happen in July to avoid serious Government embarrassment.

Some theories were:-

  • Landfill prices for hazardous waste are likely increase fourfold.

  • Haul distances will increase from an average today of 44 miles to 87 in 05.

  • Remediation by ‘dig and dump’ will become non viable in most situations

  • On-site remediation will to have increase dramatically but there is insufficient capacity in the UK to accommodate the probable demand

  • Many brownfield sites are likely to become non viable for development and consequently the Government objective of 60% development on Brownfield sites may be jeopardised.