EU Waste Prevention and Reuse Laws – deadline July 2020.

‘oh my my oh my my ,oh my my July’ go the words of a popular song by Mundy. (It’s a cracker and you can check it out on youtube). The title has real meaning now as we reach the deadline for enacting some far reaching EU waste prevention laws in Ireland.

But the sad fact is that we do not see a lot happening at the moment from Government to meet our EU Waste Prevention obligations. Are we yet again a leading laggard?

Oh my my., oh my my oh my my….will we miss July?

Here’s what’s supposed to happen here.

Revised EU waste directives that came into effect in July 2018 included a progressive set of measures to attack waste creation, boost recycling and cut waste volumes. There’s usually a lead in of a few years to measures being implemented. Our two year lead in expires on July 2020.


JULY 2020 : All EU Member States (MS) must put in place new measures by July 2020 to help them achieve these new waste prevention targets.

JULY 2021: By July 2021, governments must introduce legal measures addressing single-use plastic items, as part of the Single-Use Plastics Directive.

Our new obligations arise from actions due to be implemented from

  1. The Waste Framework Directive (WFD),
  2. The Landfill Directive (LD),
  3. The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) and
  4. The Single-Use Plastics Directive (SUP)

What’s Needed Now.

We need a progress update from our Government about ongoing delivery of national transposition of these revised waste directives. Will it be ambitious and in line with sound environmental waste management? Will it help create the foundation for a vibrant circular economy here? We all know that the best way to deal with waste is to prevent it from being created. These directives require actions & movement into this mindset.

Any new national legislative proposals and strategies, and the implementation of our existing ones, need to adhere to the EU waste hierarchy and make waste prevention top priority.

Why are we worried?

Well very simply, we do not see quick progress being made here. Waste prevention is , by far, the most efficient way to improve overall resource efficiency and to reduce the volume and the environmental impact of waste. This affects us all in our health and wallets.

The WFD outlines how to prevent and cut the generation of waste. It aims to break the link between economic growth and the environmental impacts associated with the generation of waste. It shows us howto make the transition towards a circular economy. It obliges us to reduce the generation of waste, in particular waste that is not suitable for reuse and recycling.

The PPWD prescribes measures to prevent the generation of plastic packaging . It proposes measures to increase the amount of reusable packaging placed on the market.

The SUP Directive sets restrictions for certain plastic products. It seeks to have less use of plastic materials and cut plastic waste generation. Ultimately it wants to reduce significantly the impact of plastic products on the environment.

The new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) makes waste prevention measures our top priority. It demands new waste reduction targets for certain specific waste streams. It’s part of a broader set of measures that target waste prevention by setting limits for specific streams, like food.

EU Waste Directives

Action stations.

Other EU member states have moved forward with new laws and are seeing the benefits. Here are a few examples.

  1. UNSOLD STOCK: France is the first EU country to introduce a ban on destroying unsold new products. This includes textiles, electronic products, daily hygiene products, shoes, books and household appliances. Unsold items must be prepared or donated for reuse, or recycled. These products must be donated to social associations. Administrative fines will be given to those not complying with the waste hierarchy when dealing with their unsold products. The law will come into force from January 2021.
  2. FOOD DONATIONS: In its Environmental Code France is introducing measures to fight food waste by banning the destruction of unsold food, and obliging retailers to donate food. All supermarkets and retailers with premises larger than 400 m², as well as the mass catering and food manufacturing sectors, must sign a food donation agreement with authorised charitable organisations.
  3. SINGLE USE PLASTIC: Spain’s Balearic Islands introduce bans and measures to prevent (plastic) waste generation . From 2021, the law bans single-use plastic products such as bags, cutlery, plates, straws and cotton bud and sweets sticks, as well as products containing microplastics or nanoplastics. Only compostable or cellulose products can be used.
  4. Good Samaritan law : Italy now limits food donors’ liability related to food safety rules and protects food donors from legal prosecution Potential food donors often do not donate in order to avoid risks associated with liability for donated food. Italy, with its Good Samaritan Law (No. 155/2003), considers food banks as the final consumers of donated products. This prevents individuals who receive food from food banks from being able to file a lawsuit against the food donors.
  5. DECONSTRUCTION & Brown Field Material re-use: Austria introduced pre-demolition audit and selective demolition requirements for old buildings, from 21.05.2020) Construction components and materials can be diverted from waste if dismantled properly. Austria’s Recycled Construction Materials Regulation sets an obligation to carry out a predemolition audit for potentially reusable or hazardous construction components and selective demolition requirements. This prevents waste to landfill and reduces hazardous waste, thus enabling reuse of construction and demolition materials. If there is a demand for reusable construction parts/materials, they have to be dismantled in a way that enables reuse, e.g. bricks, stoneware, roof tiles, doors, windows, sanitary objects, radiators and wooden parquets, etc.
  6. VAT reduction for REUSE & REPAIR: Belgium set financial incentives for the promotion of reuse (something we have frequently sought for Ireland). Belgium introduced a reduced VAT rate of 6% for goods and services provided by social reuse/repair enterprises if they are engaged in the social development of disadvantaged groups.
  7. REUSE & REPAIR ACCESS : access to materials: Spain’s waste management plan 2016–2022 introduced the obligation to offer social enterprises handling second-hand goods priority access to municipal waste collection points in order to acquire goods and materials for repair and reuse.

These are just a few of the concrete steps other EU countries have taken towards a real circular economy. Spain is leading by example on plastic bans, unlike Ireland where we are still talking about levies or charges that will not have an impact like a simple ban would….and we are still in discussion mode.

Italy shows how we can overcome legal impediments to food donation.

Will we catch up with them in time for July? We need progressive actions on Food Waste, SUP, disposable containers etc , not relentless indecision, ongoing discussions and reviews. The time to act is now.

oh my my…….. You deserve a treat for reading this far .

Enjoy the Mundy song here.