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The Warsaw Voice » Law » June 11, 2008
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Eurotrash: International Movement of Waste
June 11, 2008   
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There is a price incentive for businesses to export waste to Poland, as Polish waste management charges work out much cheaper than those in Western Europe. Under European law and binding transitional regulations, moving waste to Poland is subject to environmental controls, which effectively limits the waste business.

Let's define "waste"
To evaluate whether materials may be deemed to constitute waste, you need to look at the definition of waste in Article 1(1)(a) of Directive 2006/12/EC. This definition was incorporated into the Polish legal system in the Waste Act of April 27, 2001 (Dziennik Ustaw journal of laws 2007 No. 39 item 251 as amended). "Waste" is defined as any substance or object that the holder discards, intends to discard, or is required to discard. The expressions "discards," "intends to discard" and "is required to discard" exhaustively cover cases in which the holder of a substance or object, either directly or indirectly, intends it for, or subjects it to, a disposal or recovery operation. As a result, the scope of the meaning of "waste" depends on the meaning of the verb "to discard," which is to be interpreted in light of the aim of Directive 2006/12/EC as well as Polish law, which is to protect people and the environment against harmful effects caused by the collection, transport, treatment, storage and fly-tipping of waste, and Article 174(2) of the Treaty Establishing the European Community, which states that the EU policy on the environment will aim at a high level of protection and will be based, in particular, on the precautionary principle and the principle that preventive action should be taken.

European waste shipment procedure
The domestic law of each member state regulates the supervision and monitoring of waste shipments within that country. Issues related to the cross-border movement of waste are dealt with in both domestic and European regulations. The Polish Act on the International Movement of Waste of June 29, 2007 contains mostly procedural provisions for the legal institutions provided for in EU law and indicates the agencies in charge of overseeing international waste shipments to Poland, conferring the basic powers in this respect on the Chief Environmental Protection Inspector (Główny Inspektor Ochrony ¦rodowiska). This act sets out the procedure and the agencies charged with performing tasks relating to the international shipment of waste arising from Regulation (EC) No. 1013/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of June 14, 2006 on shipments of waste, and financial penalties of up to zl.300,000 for violation of duties regarding international waste shipments, depending on the quantity, category and possible danger or adverse effects on people and the environment of the illegally imported waste. The said act regulates international traffic of waste, but the main body of legal regulations in this area can be found in EU legislation establishing the system of monitoring waste shipped within the European Union, as well as between the member states and third countries. European regulations have the binding force of law in Poland, as this country is a member state, and the said act is of a purely executive nature with regard to the regulation.

Under European law-Regulation (EC) No. 1013/2006-parties intending to ship waste within or outside the European Union need to apply for a permit for the planned shipment of waste from one member state to another. The regulation sets out a multi-stage procedure. Entities wishing to ship waste into or out of Poland must obtain an international waste shipment permit and complete the whole procedure, which involves obtaining the consent of the competent authority of a destination, dispatch and transit country.

Until Dec. 31, 2012, the procedure of prior written notification and consent laid down in the regulation will be applied to all waste destined for disposal or recovery operations in Poland. After the transition period comes to an end, control limitations will be eased somewhat with respect to waste categories specified in the "Green List" contained in an annex to the said EC regulation, and no permits will be required for the listed wastes.

Bartosz Clemenz
Dominik Rafałko
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