Planned Amendments to the Waste Act in Poland

On 9 January 2019, the Minister of Environment presented draft amendments to the Act on Waste of 14 December 2012 (“Waste Act”), proposing new regulations effectively forbidding thermal transformation of mixed municipal waste.

In its present wording, Article 158 of the Waste Act concerns legal qualification of the thermal processing of waste and the newly proposed Section 3 would explicitly state that “it is forbidden to thermally transform mixed municipal waste”.

Companies involved in the municipal waste industry as well as various local government officials, have raised several objections to this provision, which were partially considered by the Minister of Environment during the public consultations process. As a result, the new prohibition is likely not to apply to waste incineration or co-incineration plants financed from European Union funds or funds of the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management during the period necessary to ensure the durability of the project (usually 5 years after the completion of the project). It will help to maintain EU funds but may have a significant impact on existing plants and future plans of investor from the industry.

If enacted in to law, the amendment will force some incinerator plants to adjust to the new rules and seek new solutions regarding the type of fuel used in the facility. Operators of the installations based on more flexible technology in terms of the use of fuel will be in a more advantageous position. The planned amendment seems to be a result of the EU-level current approach to the idea of circular economy, whereby (in brief summary) recovery and recycling of waste is given priority over incineration (with the exception of waste resulting from subsequent treatment operations of the separately collected waste for which incineration delivers “the best environmental outcome”).

The Ministry would like to see the proposed amendment to enter into force on 30 June 2021. The proposal is now under review of the Permanent Committee of the Council of Ministers. Once the Ministry and the Council of Ministers approves it, the draft proposal will be passed to the Parliament for vote. If passed into legislation, it must be signed by the President in order to come into force.

Analysed legislation: draft Act amending the Act on Maintaining Cleanliness and Order in Communes and certain other acts (the “Draft Act”) amending Act of 13 September 1996 on Maintaining Cleanliness and Order in Communes (consolidated text - Journal of Laws of 2018, item 1454), the Act on Waste of 14 December 2012 (consolidated text - Journal of Laws of 2018, item 992) and the Act of 20 February 2015 on Renewable Energy Sources (consolidated text Journal of Laws of 2018, item 2389).