National Translation of the EU Landfill Directives—Will Landfills Become Sustainable?

National Translation of the EU Landfill Directives—Will Landfills Become Sustainable?

M. Van Praagh K.M. Persson 

Department of Water Resources Engineering, Lund University, Sweden

3 March 2006
| Citation



The key issues of the EU Landfill Directives (1999/31/EC and 2003/33/EC) are elucidated with respect to the directives’ objectives towards sustainable waste management. In countries such as Sweden the national translation of the directives’ requirements will lead to dryer landfills with relatively more municipal solid waste (MSW) incineration residues. Numerous landfills have been closed before the initially envisaged date. They will not be subject to the advanced closing procedure for landfills according to the translation of the EU directives. Together with former unengineered dumps, these landfills will outnumber the compliant landfills by far. The former are neither subject to the Swedish national translation of the Landfill Directives nor to any other EU or national legislation. Often lacking active and even passive barrier systems, the emission potential of these landfills seems to be able to overshadow that of the reduced number of remaining EU directive-compliant landfills. These landfills will eventually be regarded as contaminated areas. In countries such as Sweden a substitution of MSW landfills by incineration facilities will result in a more rapid and likely increased release of carbon dioxide emissions (among other air pollutants) per tonne of produced waste. Thus, a comparative assessment of the overall impact of waste management options on different timescales for emissions should be done on a countryby- country basis to assess sustainability of the translation of the Landfill Directives. The physical–chemical and microbiological properties of the resulting storage conditions governing the landfills’ emission potentials are unknown to a great extent. A prolonged risk of relevant emissions has to be taken into account for compliant landfills due to possible moisture scarcity and subsequent slower degradation rates. On the one hand, leaching of degradation products could be extended, albeit in reduced concentrations. On the other hand, longer contact time with water can enhance leaching of, for example, hydrophilic substances. Concentration and/or mass peaks might be postponed compared to earlier, ‘wetter’ landfilling with a higher content of easily degradable organic waste. Without addressing and answering these uncertainties, it remains doubtful it the national translation of the Landfill Directives will lead to sustainable waste management in the long run.


landfill, legislation, long-term emissions, storage conditions, sustainable waste management.


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