Germany and the EU Commission are once again at odds over Germany's central waste legislation, the Closed Substance Cycle and Waste Management Act. In a written warning seen by EUWID, Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik accuses the German government of failing to correctly transpose the revised Waste Framework Directive in German law. The current case revolves around Germany's implementation of the Directive's five-step waste hierarchy.
In the Commission's view, the five-step hierarchy is a core element of the Directive. The formal notice, which marks the official start of infringement proceedings, was not unexpected. The case (No. 2014/2003) was launched on 21 February. Germany has two months two respond to the warning. Within Germany, criticism came primarily from the German waste management association BDE which had filed a complaint with the Commission. The organisation finds fault with the equivalence of energy recovery from waste with preparation for reuse and recycling for wastes with a calorific value of at least 11,000 kJ/kg without mixing.
Brussels has rejected the "calorific value criterion". Departures from the prioritisation established in the waste hierarchy were only to be allowed on a case-by-case basis where warranted by life-cycle thinking. The Commission holds that a general rule according to which thermal recovery is assigned the same priority as material recycling for waste with a calorific value exceeding a given threshold is inconsistent with the spirit of Article 4, paragraph 2, which presents deviations from the waste hierarchy as exceptions to be allowed only to deliver the best overall environmental outcome.