Waste Framework Directive (RRC)
What Is the Waste Framework Directive?
The European Union (EU) Waste Framework Directive (WFD) (2008/98/EC) was originally implemented to protect the environment and human health by preventing or reducing the adverse impacts of waste generation and management. However, waste operators found the disposal instructions provided by manufacturers and importers placing products on the European Economic Area (EEA) market to be inadequate. As a result, hazardous substances were improperly managed, putting workers and the environment at risk. This indicated a need for significant changes to legislation.
In 2018, the EU introduced amendments to several pieces of legislation that regulate how products sold in the EEA are reused, repurposed, recycled or disposed of. These included an updated EU WFD (2018/851), which applies to all products sold in the EU regardless of manufacturing origin. This created a level playing field for all companies selling products in the EEA.
Key Features of the EU Waste Framework Directive
The updated EU WFD establishes concepts and definitions related to waste management, including recycling and recovery. It outlines when waste should be considered a secondary raw material, allowing stakeholders to distinguish between waste and by-products. Additionally, it lays out waste management principles, requiring that waste be managed without endangering human health or the environment, with an emphasis on waste prevention.
Introduces binding waste reduction targets.
Establishes a hierarchy for waste processing.
Improves recycling systems within the EU.
Facilitates waste recovery through decontamination.
Outlines mandatory requirements for a centralized product SVHC database (see details below).
The Waste Framework Directive & the Circular Economy
The EU WFD (2018/851) supports the broader EU circular economy initiative, which aims to move the European economy toward sustainable production and consumption. The current closed loop economic model relies on ceaseless consumption of scarce natural resources. Goods are produced, used and disposed of in waste streams with low levels of recycling. In contrast, the open loop economic model, which the EU is moving toward, encourages companies to design and manufacture products using resources that are non-scarce and non-toxic, and which can be easily disassembled and recycled using waste streams.
The Waste Framework Directive & Existing Legislation
Under the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation, there is an obligation to make downstream users aware of products containing Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) above the 0.1 percent weight by weight (w/w) threshold. Under the new EU WFD, SVHC reporting obligations will expand.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been legally mandated under the EU WFD to establish a new central database of products containing hazardous substances, scheduled to go live on January 5, 2021. As a result, companies that produce or sell products in the EEA are required to submit information on all SVHCs identified by the ECHA. The information provided will be used to create the database.
Requirements Under the New Framework
The new ECHA WFD SVHC database will require in-scope companies to name the substance over threshold, provide safe use guidance and submit additional information. Reporting concentration levels of hazardous substances will be mandatory. The additional information will allow waste stream operators to quickly access instructions on the proper recycling and repurposing of complex products and make it easier for workers to access safety information about materials they come into contact with.
The database, and the increased visibility it brings to company product data, is expected to result in a decline in the use of SVHCs in products. Companies should be aware of safer alternative solutions and be prepared to justify their use of SVHCs as regulations continue to evolve.