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.
Read the guidelines on the separate collection of household hazardous 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
- iron, steel and aluminium scrap (see Council Regulation (EU) N° 333/2011)
- glass cullet (see Commission Regulation (EU) N° 1179/2012)
- copper scrap (see Commission Regulation (EU) N° 715/2013)
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.
The Commission is currently working on a targeted revision of the Waste Framework Directive and has conducted a preliminary analysis in the context of assessing impacts, including stakeholder consultations. Based on this analysis and taking into account the ongoing efforts across the EU to implement “the 2018 waste package” and the variety of new and ongoing initiatives by the Commission (including the review of the Packaging and packaging waste Directive, Batteries Regulation, Industrial Emission Directive, Eco-design for Sustainable Products regulation), the Commission has defined the scope of the policy initiative for the targeted amendment of the Waste Framework Directive in 2023. The initiative will focus on policy options to bring about a more circular and sustainable management of textile waste in view of the objectives set out in the EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles. The initiative will also assess the feasibility of setting food waste reduction targets to implement the Union’s commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Farm to Fork Strategy and limit the food supply chain’s impact on the environment and climate.
In view of this scope, stakeholder consultations have focused on textiles. A second workshop was held on 7 July 2022 to discuss possible measures to improve the collection and treatment of textile waste. In addition, the study team supporting the Commission for the impact assessment of those measures has conducted targeted consultations. The consultation activities for the other areas (waste prevention and preparation for reuse and recycling) will not be held as these will not be the focus of this targeted initiative.
Furthermore, the Commission aims to share and promote the best practices identified in the support studies, as regards waste prevention monitoring, separate collection of dry recyclables and biowaste, and the sustainable management of waste oils. For that purpose, the Commission, in cooperation with the EEA, is finalising the ongoing analysis and reports are in preparation.
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 took place in the first half of 2022 to ensure that all relevant stakeholders could express their views. 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 was open for feedback until 24 August 2022. More information is on Have Your Say: WFD revision.
In line with Better Regulation, the Commission will draft an impact assessment report in support of this revision to set out the options and assess their impacts.
Study to Support Preparation of the Commission’s Guidance for Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes - recommendations for guidance
Study to Support Preparation of the Commission’s Guidance for Extended Producer Responsibility Schemes - final report
Guidance for separate collection of municipal waste
Study on investment needs in the waste sector and on the financing of municipal waste management in Member States
Study to Support the Implementation of Reporting Obligations Resulting from the New Waste Legislation Adopted in 2018
For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.