European Commission sends final warning to Spain over waste directive violations

The European Commission has sent Spain a final written warning for poor application of EU legislation on the treatment of waste. Spain still needs to close and restore 87 illegal landfills which are receiving 720,000 tons of waste per year. In addition, a large number of illegal landfills that have been closed need to be restored. This final warning follows an initial warning sent in March last year about the existence and operation of illegal and uncontrolled landfill sites in the country. The Commission’s action is the result of a lengthy appraisal of Member States’ compliance with the waste directive. The directive oversees the operation of landfill sites.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said, “All European citizens have a right to a clean environment, so I call on Spain to urgently make good these shortcomings and comply with the waste directive. The Commission has repeatedly alerted EU Member States to the dangers that uncontrolled landfills pose to human health and the environment.”

Spain’s national urban waste plan, covering the years 2000-2006, envisaged steps to close and rehabilitate all harmful landfill sites. The Commission subsequently asked Spain for information on the existence of illegal landfill sites and the measures it had taken to close and restore these sites.

On the basis of data showing a number of illegal landfill sites, the Commission sent a first warning letter to Spain in March 2007. In their response Spain said that the number of illegal landfills in the original urban waste plan had been overestimated and that only 87 illegal landfills remained in Spain. These, it said, would be closed and restored as part of plans designed for the years 2007 to 2015. These plans have not yet been approved and communicated to the Commission.

The Commission is sending Spain a second warning letter, which, in the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, could refer Spain to the European Court of Justice.