Despite EU action to reduce its generation, the amount of hazardous waste generated in the EU has continued to increase since 2004. A review published today by the European Court of Auditors sheds light on existing and future challenges in dealing with hazardous waste: improving classification, ensuring traceability, increasing recycling, and combating illegal trafficking, which is still a lucrative business.
“The generation of hazardous waste is on the increase, and the EU has to address this problem”, said Eva Lindström, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the review. “The most preferable ways to handle hazardous waste are recycling and energy recovery. Disposal should only be used as a last resort. However, over 50 % of the EU’s hazardous waste is still simply disposed of. In this review, we show that preventing and treating hazardous waste remains challenging, but also presents opportunities”.
The press release stated that trafficking and illegally dumping hazardous waste remains a lucrative business: annual revenues are estimated to be between €1.5 billion and €1.8 billion for trafficking alone. Detection, investigations and prosecutions are rare, and penalties are low.
The use of digitalisation to better trace hazardous waste and combat false declarations, as well as a more
dissuasive sanctions mechanism, could limit the possibilities of illegal trafficking. A ban on all shipments of waste for disposal, which the Commission proposed in 2021, could further contribute to reducing the trafficking of hazardous waste.