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European Union has implemented environmental policies intended to greatly increase diversion of organic wastes from landfills over the next decade. The major driver for this change is the landfill directive that calls for member states to reduce organic waste landfilling to 35% of 1995 levels by 2016. Strategies and timeframes to achieve diversion goals differ widely among the member states. Technical working group reports of the Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection have stated that soil based recycling of biowastes, sewage sludges and other organic residuals should be the preferred approach to landfill diversion. However, such a Biowaste directive to implement such a policy appears unlikely at this juncture. Regulation of soil applied organic materials, specifically regarding soil contaminants, also stands at an important crossroad in the EU. There appears to be widespread agreement on the need for a holistic, integrated approach to regulation of soil applied organic materials, as well as for policies that will encourage the production of high quality soil amendment products. However, there is an ongoing and vigorous debate over the philosophical approach that should be used to establish contaminant threshold limits. Evidence that a no net accumulation approach will severely limit soil based recycling of even high quality biowastes products has resulted in calls for inclusion of risk concepts in developing contaminant thresholds. This has resulted in significant debate with those who consider any deviation from the precautionary principle to be movement away from sustainability and from the protection of soils for all possible future uses. Others think some application of risk benefit analysis should be incorporated to allow soil based recycling of high quality organic waste products. Regardless of how these debates are resolved, recycling of organic wastes and soil based utilization of biowastes products will increase substantially in the EU in the next 10 years.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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