EUROPEAN SEA PORTS ORGANISATION ASBL/VZW
ORGANISATION DES PORTS MARITIMES EUROPEENS ASBL/VZW
Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of waste & Proposal for a Directive on Waste
Implications for ports and dredging
The maintenance of safe, navigable depths is of vital importance for seaports. Therefore dredging
operations are being carried out in almost every European seaport. Dredging operations are
regulated and are required to obtain permitting procedures and controls. The timeframe to be
granted the necessary permits depends on the type of dredging project involved and can vary
between Member States from a couple of months to several years for major port developments and
All sediment that deposits within port areas is not a waste but a natural, essential, integral and
dynamic part of aquatic systems. Most seaports dispose non contaminated dredged material
(sediments) by relocation or placement in the sea following the strict procedures of several
conventions (London Convention, OSPAR Convention etc.). Relocation or placement allows
sediment to continue its important role within the dynamics of coastal and estuarial morphological
systems, thus returning the sediment to where it belongs.
Sediments can however act as a potential sink for contaminants and with that become a secondary
source of contamination. Dredged material can thus contain contaminants that have settled with the
sediment in the port area. The primary source of contamination is mostly upstream of the port; these
sources may be diffuse (e.g. agriculture) or point sources (e.g. industrial discharges). When the
contamination level in the sediment is considered too high, relocation at sea is not allowed and
alternative management techniques need to be considered.
ESPO notices that several Member States are increasingly treating most dredged material as
contaminated and thus as waste and in need of special treatment and/or disposal, even though only a
minor part of the dredged material is contaminated. With this these Member States are increasingly
restricting the use of direct sea relocation of the material being dredged. The result of this excessive
caution is that ports are potentially facing huge costs related to disposal and treatment without a
clear environmental benefit. It is also possible that such actions will lead to excessive depletion of
sediment from the local system inducing changes which may cause longer term environmental
ESPO believes this far reaching precaution is partly due to the comprehension of the European
waste catalogue which does not take the characteristics of sediments into consideration. Sediments
play an important natural role in aquatic systems, for example a role in the sediment balance for the
purpose of combating erosion and providing biological diversity.
Treurenberg 6 - B-1000 Brussel/Bruxelles
Tel. : 32-2-736 34 63 - Fax: 32-2-736 63 25
E-mail : email@example.com - Web site : http://www.espo.be
In summary, in the opinion of ESPO there is a clear distinction between clean dredged material and
contaminated dredged material. Generally dredged material should be relocated within its natural
environment or directly beneficially used. Only if contamination does not allow this, it should be
confined in appropriate facilities or treated and re-used if there is a market for use.
ESPO recognises that it is the definition of ‘discard’ that defines whether something needs to be
considered as waste however for dredged material this should be preferably depended on the
presence of contaminants.
2.1. European Waste Definition
Annex I of the Waste Framework Directive and the European Waste Catalogue (EWC
2000/532/EC) indicate dredging spoil as the following categories of waste:
170506 – dredging spoil containing dangerous substances
170506 – dredging spoil (other)
ESPO believes that the existing European waste definition puts a negative label on all dredged
material and sediments and does not recognise that in some cases dredged material should be
considered as a by-product of the dredging process. In some Member States this results in an
approach that does not benefit good environmental status at all.
For all categories of waste the Waste Framework Directive sets out the following enumeration of
priority measures Member States should encourage:
(1) the prevention or reduction of waste production and its harmfulness;
(2) the recovery of waste by means of recycling, re-use or reclamation or any other process
with a view to extracting secondary raw materials;
(3) recovery or disposal without endangering human health or harming the environment.
As set out above, disposal of waste should be the last alternative if none of the other options is
available. However, the approach of some Member States seems to imply that disposal in a special
facility should be the normal procedure for all dredged material. According to the priority setting in
the Waste Framework Directive and the fact that re-use and recycling is possible for large parts of
dredged material, disposal outside the aquatic environment should not be standard procedure but the
The definition of waste is described in Article 1(a) of the Waste Framework Directive; determining
that waste is every substance or object which the holder discards, intends to discard or is required to
discard. This definition is independent of the contamination of the waste. As stated before, sediment
in itself is a natural, essential, integral and dynamic part of aquatic systems. Whether dredged
material is a waste should be considered on a case by case basis as there are circumstances where
dredged material may be considered a by-product of the dredging process.
Therefore the term relocation for the normal procedure is being used, describing that the sediments
do and shall remain in their original system. It may be compared to digging up a garden – the earth
on the scoop is also not waste.
ESPO agrees that if sediments are contaminated and cannot be placed within the system and when
they could be stored in a specific facility (discarded) or treated to be re-used then they may be
regarded as waste. Clean dredged material however should merely be relocated within its natural
2.2. Open water placement (re-use) of dredged material
In the view of many ports and Member States it should be underlined that both relocation of
dredged material in the water and/or re-placement into the same environmental compartment from
which it originates at suitable locations (re-use) are the most preferable solution for the largest part
of the dredged material which is not contaminated.
The action of relocation or placement in the aquatic environment can be made more sustainable by
carefully selecting places for relocation and applying best management practices (for which
guidance and regulations already exist). But it is completely inefficient to dispose of all this dredged
material in specific disposal facilities outside the system.
2.3. Direct use of dredged material
Besides re-using dredged material the direct use of dredged material is a preferred option which
mostly provides uses for coarse dredged material such as gravels and sands for construction or
coastal defence purposes, such as beach replenishment schemes.1 Such uses are generally related to
sediments dredged as part of capital schemes and, as such, are not part of the background sediment
regime. The removal of such material to construction or beach replenishment schemes is unlikely to
deplete sediment from estuary systems and is a sustainable use of a by-product of the dredging
The huge volumes of dredged material in seaports makes it impossible in many countries to
conceive sufficient direct use or recycling schemes to re-use such large amounts. Moreover, direct
use schemes generally take longer to plan, to find resources, to obtain permits and to undertake,
than relocation at sea.
Recycling schemes for fine dredged silts are becoming more common as well as the use of
maintenance dredged materials for environmental enhancement, such as habitat creation and
restoration (in particular intertidal sediment recharge schemes which provide a means of combating
the erosion of intertidal flats and saltmarsh).
A further selection of direct use projects for sand, gravel, silt, clay and rock are:
- beach nourishment;
- coast protection;
- habitat creation;
In the US already 40.000 hectares of wetland, both coastal and inland, have been restored, created or protected using
dredged material over the last decade.
- saltmarsh restoration / feeding;
- intertidal recharge;
- restoration of derelict contaminated land;
- use as fill material;
- construct artificial islands;
- use as construction material;
- soil improvement for agricultural land (fresh water only).
2.4. Any other process with a view to extracting secondary raw materials:
Also for contaminated dredged material, apart from, disposal in specially designed facilities other
modes of processing and subsequent beneficial use are possible:
- separation of sand and silt;
- biological treatment to upgrade quality;
- dewatering, ripening;
- manufacturing bricks;
2.5. New European waste legislation
According to the Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste a main problem which
needs to be tackled is that despite large increases in recycling, landfill – the environmentally most
problematic way to dispose of waste – is only reducing slowly.
Landfilling is the most common method of disposal of contaminated dredged material. In this sense
the policy of some Member States to constrain the re-use and recycling of dredged material by
moving towards disposal of dredged material as the standard procedure, will result in a further
increase in landfills instead of a reduction as anticipated by the Commission while industry, due to
the success of source control, is able to decrease the amounts of contaminated dredged material
which need to be stored in landfills.
As the proposed Directive also contains definitions for re-use2 and recycling3, ESPO hopes that it
could make relocation and replacement and beneficial use acceptable uses of clean dredged material
thus avoiding unnecessary landfilling. This promotes the concept that clean dredged material is a
natural resource and an essential element of the aquatic environment and not a waste.
In Article 6 the draft states that “Member States…shall prohibit the…dumping…of waste.”” This
could prohibit open water placement of dredged material and makes a clarification indispensable for
the existence of ports.
Article 3(f): ‘any recovery operation by which products or components that have become waste are used again for the
same purpose for which they were conceived.’
Article 3(g): ‘the recovery of waste into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes.’
2.6. European Landfill Directive
ESPO members recognize that some dredged material can be contaminated thus requiring strict
disposal. Many ports have constructed disposal facilities especially designed for the specific
characteristics of contaminated dredged material.
Such Confined Disposal Facilities (CDFs), which are in most cases subaquatic, are a very common
option in the management of contaminated dredged material by ports. CDFs meet stringent
environmental criteria (e.g. for limiting transport of contaminants into groundwater).
Sub-aquatic confined disposal of contaminated sediments is not foreseen in the EU Landfill
Directive. The European Landfill Directive does not take into account the special properties of
dredged material and the resulting requirements. Contrary to conventional waste disposal, dredged
sediments could best be stored in an anoxic, sub-aqueous environment. Very often, owing to the
high content of fine-grained material, sediments have a very low permeability, thus ‘they seal
Therefore CDFs for dredged material do not always meet all the requirements for landfills as
determined in the European Landfill Directive (99/31/EC).
In the view of ESPO, sub-aquatic CDFs for dredged material are excluded in the scope of the
Landfill Directive. However some Member States believe that these facilities need to meet all the
requirements of the Landfill Directive, placing an obligation on ports to adjust CDFs to the Landfill
Directive requirements for landfills.
These adjustments involve excessive and unjustified costs even though the present confined aquatic
disposals are constructed in such a way that the adverse effects of waste on the environment, in
particular on surface water, groundwater, soil, air and human health do not exist.
If Member States believe that the Landfill Directive applies to disposal facilities for dredged
materials they have to comply by 16 July 2009 with the requirements of the Landfill Directive. In
order to meet the requirements of the Directive, in principle disposal facilities should be equipped
with e.g. lining and leachate collection systems, purification systems and fencing, and there should
be financial security as well. Existing CDFs, mostly technically advanced, which do not comply
with these requirements will need to be changed or closed.
ESPO believes that several Member States do not understand the actual objectives of the Landfill
Directive and pose far reaching technical requirements on these facilities which are not necessary
for better environmental protection but only cause an extra financial burden on some ports.
ESPO believes that the combination of both regarding large amounts of dredged material as waste
and placing CDF’s under the Landfill Directive in some Member States is disrupting the level
playing field between ports.
ESPO is concerned that disposal facilities for contaminated dredged material need to comply with
the requirements for landfills as set out in the Landfill Directive. This will place a non proportional
burden on ports that need to adjust their disposal facilities.
ESPO believes that most ports have excellent specially designed disposal sites which are designated
for contaminated dredged material. There is international guidance available on how to construct
such facilities for the protection of the environment. The functioning of these state-of-the -art
facilities are not understood as some Member States place additional technical burdens which do
not lead to environmental benefits.
The technical and environmental criteria included in the Landfill Directive could not be applicable
to the marine environment due to their specific characteristics. CDF’s are specifically designed to
contain contaminated dredged material. So, CDF’s should be considered as a better solution, from
the environmental and economic point of view, than a conventional landfill.
In summary, in the opinion of ESPO a distinction has to be made between normal, clean dredged
sediments and dredged material which is not suitable for unrestricted use. Clean dredged material
should be relocated within its natural environment or directly beneficially used. In certain cases
such material should be considered as a by-product rather than a waste. Contaminated dredged
material should be stored in appropriate facilities or treated and re-used if there is a potential and a
market for use.
ESPO believes that there is a clear need for a change in the definition of waste with regard to
natural materials such as sediments and dredged material. If tested uncontaminated with regard to
the natural environment from where it was dredged the material should not be regarded as a waste.
With this much clean dredged material would then be a potential resource which could reduce the
need for primary resource extraction and its relocation would help maintain the natural dynamics of
the existing physical environment.
Without appropriate changes to the definition of waste ESPO fears that Member States could force
increasing amounts of dredged material to be landfilled without clear environmental benefit while
excluding the relocation of non contaminated dredged material into the aquatic system.