Groundbreaking changes to the municipal waste management system are increasingly closer

On 21 May 2019, the Council of Ministers began considering the draft amendment to the Act of 13 September 1996 on Maintaining Cleanliness and Order in Communes and certain other acts (Journal of Laws of 2018, item 1454, hereinafter referred to as “the Act”).

The explanation of the Act states that the main assumptions underpinning the proposed changes result from recommendations contained in the National Waste Management Plan 2022.

Particular attention should be paid to proposed amendments to the Waste Act of 14 December 2012 (i.e. the Journal of Laws of 2019, item 701, as amended) concerning the operation of regional municipal waste management systems, which are undoubtedly groundbreaking.

Departing from the Regionalization of Municipal Waste Treatment Facilities

The first revolutionary change is the planned departure from the principle of regionalization. The draft amendment envisages that it will be possible to transfer bio-waste, unsegregated (mixed) municipal waste and sorting residues, and also waste arising from the mechanical and biological treatment of municipal waste to facilities located throughout the country. To date, it has only been possible to transfer waste within the borders of waste management regions, as specified in the regional waste management plan (RWMP).

New definition of Regional Municipal Waste Treatment Facilities

The proposed amendment also redefines municipal waste treatment facilities. The new definition deems such a facility to be a facility specified in the RWMP which uses the best available techniques (as referred to in art. 207 of the Environmental Law Act of 27 April 2001) or technology (as referred to in art. 143 of this Act) and which provides: (i) the mechanical and biological treatment of unsegregated (mixed) municipal waste and the separation from unsegregated municipal waste of elements which, wholly or partially, are suitable for recovery[ST1] , or (ii) the storage of waste generated during the mechanical and biological treatment of unsegregated (mixed) municipal waste and residues from municipal waste sorting.

The new definition means that RWMPs are no longer required to have sufficient capacity to accept and treat waste from an area inhabited by 120,000 people. It is also worth noting that the status of RWMP will no longer be granted to an entire plant, but only to its individual facilities.

These reforms aim to increase competitiveness and enable smaller mixed municipal waste treatment facilities to operate on the market.

The reforms will also delete existing provisions of the Act which enable supra-regional status to be granted to selected facilities, which is a consequence of departing from the regionalization principle.

Simplifying investments to construct Waste Treatment Facilities

Another important change is the removal of administrative barriers in obtaining decisions required to construct and operate RWMP-status facilities (via the deletion of art. 38a of the Waste Act). The current provisions require that a facility must already be included in the RWMP before it can obtain a decision on environmental conditions, a building permit, an integrated permit or a permit to treat waste.

The proposed reforms will allow facilities to be constructed without being formerly registered in the RWMP. Nonetheless, such registration will still be required in order to finance the construction from public funds.

The reforms also seek to make it possible to obtain financing from EU and national funds for projects to supplement the selective waste collection system, and to obtain financial support for waste recycling facilities, even if they are not included in the RWMP. However, it should be emphasized that this solution is only intended to apply temporarily.

What next for thermal waste treatment?

The proposed reforms include changes to the transfer of unsegregated municipal waste for treatment in waste incinerators. It will be prohibited to send for thermal treatment any unsegregated municipal waste from communes that have failed to implement regulations concerning the detailed method for selectively collecting certain waste types (i.e. by failing to fulfill the condition in art. 9e par. Id of the Maintaining Cleanliness and Order in Communes Act of 13 September 1996). The provisions would enter into force on 30 June 2021.

These are merely some of the proposed reforms which the Ministry of Environment believes will contribute to limiting price increases for waste management and increasing competitiveness on markets connected with municipal waste management.

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