Landfill Directive : European Commission takes Slovakia to court for failing EU landfill rules

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The European Commission decided to refer Slovakia to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to rehabilitate and close a certain number of landfills that do not comply with the requirements of the Landfill Directive, the Commission said in a statement.

The Directive lays down standards for the treating and disposing of waste in landfills. It aims to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects, in particular on surface water, groundwater, soil, air, and human health, of the landfilling of waste by introducing stringent technical requirements for waste and landfills. Under the Directive, only safe and controlled landfill activities should be carried out in Europe.

According to the Directive, Member States had to close old landfills by 16 July 2009 unless a decision authorising further operation of the landfill was taken by the competent authority based on an adequate conditioning plan explaining how the requirements of the Directive are to be met. Before closure, landfills need to undergo rehabilitation to ensure that they will not cause any significant adverse effects. They can only be considered as definitively closed after the competent authority has carried out the final on-site inspection, assessed all documents submitted by the operator and approved the closure and rehabilitation.

Slovakia failed to meet Landfill Directive standards

Due to non-compliance with the Directive, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Slovakia in April 2017, followed by a reasoned opinion in March 2019. Since then, Slovakia has closed several non-compliant landfills and reconditioned and re-permitted a number of landfills. However, action is still needed for 21 Slovak landfills. These old landfills lack an adequate plan explaining how the requirements of the Directive are to be met and the competent authorities have not issued a definite decision permitting further operations. Currently, the 21 landfills are out of operation but have not been rehabilitated and definitively closed as required by the Directive. Thus, they still likely present a danger for environment and human health. The Commission considers that efforts by the Slovak authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient and is consequently referring Slovakia to the Court of Justice of the European Union.