Europe: COCOON Consortium for a Coherent European Landfill Management Strategy

Since the 1950s Europe has been disposing vast levels of waste in landfills. Estimates have revealed that 90% of Europe's 500,000+ landfills are "non-sanitary" landfills, which predate the EU Landfill Directive and have limited environmental protection technologies.


The EC has acknowledged that a vision for managing Europe's landfills is urgently required. Landfills are to be considered as dynamic stocks of resources (landfill gas, water, other) that can be integrated into the economy, while landfill management (LfM) supports reclaiming land and avoids astronomic remediation and aftercare costs. Although many EU regions are already implementing LfM, no targeted, specific European LfM legislation currently exists. Nor are existing Waste Management and Soil Protection policies integrated in an overarching circular economy framework.

Therefore, the COCOON objective is to develop, integrate and improve relevant policy instruments, while increasing subsidies through operational programmes (OPs) for LfM projects. COCOON brings together distinct EU regions to share and capitalise on regional good practices. The six targeted policy instruments include:

  1. The Soil Remediation Decree in Flanders (BE), the Environmental Protection Act in the Netherlands  and
  2. Funding of LfM projects through the OPs in Andalucía (ES), Brandenburg (DE), Cyprus and Malta.

As a result of LfM projects, the recovery of resources (landfill gas and water first, other resources later), as well as land recovery is increased while future environmental hazards can be avoided. LfM projects generate economic development opportunities; create new (local) jobs, all within the context of a EU-wide transition to a resilient, low-carbon, circular economy.

Partners COCOON

  • Belgium: Cleantech Flanders (lead partner)
  • Belgium: Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM)
  • Cyprus: Department of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment
  • Germany: State office of Environment of the State of Brandenburg
  • Malta: Environment and Resources Authority
  • Malta: WasteServ Malta Ltd
  • Netherlands: Rijkswaterstaat, Agency of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment
  • Spain: Sanitation Cordoba (SADECO)

Project website

Situation in the Netherlands

Since 1996 the public authorities are addressing landfill sites in order to prevent citizens to come in contact with the waste landfilled and contaminants will leach into the groundwater. Landfill sites already closed in 1996 were investigated in a national survey inventory. This inventory closed in 2004 and concluded that no sites had to be cleaned up urgently. However, some sites do result in leaching to the groundwater and might become risks for the quality of the environment. Therefore, it is important to address these issues. For the landfill sites still in operation in 1996, specific legislation in the framework of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) was introduced in 1998. The provinces were responsible to implement this act in their territory and are still the competent public authorities for having these sites properly managed in terms of the environmental control of the landfill gas, water drainage, bottom- and surface liners and interim use of the area for solar panels, wind turbines and sport activities. Some 20 landfill sites in the Netherlands are still in operation for the deposit of waste. In order to update the national policy documents about landfill sites to new management regimes, recovery of land and resources and to simultaneously reduce eternity costs for aftercare, in line with the Dutch Green Deal Sustainable Landfill Management, the EPA, including specific directives for landfilling, has to be improved.

Objectives for the Netherlands

  1. Space is limited in the Netherlands, therefore landfill management policy instruments are needed to stimulate release of space, social development and protection of the environment. Our goal: What is needed for landfill rehabilitation.
  2. Potential environmental risks at non-sanitary landfills, especially risks for the groundwater bodies, will be addressed. Control measures and monitoring is needed to prevent leaching from former landfill sites. Our goal: In 2020 all groundwater contaminated sites have to be remediated or in control.
  3. What legal and financial instruments are needed for a good business case in a circular economy? Our goal: Evaluation and update of the aftercare paragraph of the Environmental Protection Act, the regulations for soil- and groundwater protection in the Dutch landfill directive (Stortbesluit).
  4. For the operational landfill sites and for future landfilling sites, innovative landfill management will be stimulated and monitored for a period of 10 years. Our goal: Reduce negative environmental effects, from eternal aftercare towards finite aftercares and a reduction of costs.

Sharing knowledge

For the Netherlands one of the main investment priorities is promoting a resource-efficient economy by investing in innovative technologies enhancing energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy sources. Innovations by top sectors for smart specialization in high-tech systems and materials are essential. For this project national and local authorities, knowledge institutes, companies and public (the quadruple helix) uses its growth potential via cross-overs.