The present Waste Incineration Directive (WI Directive,2000/76/EC) has its origin in two earlier Directives, resp. on the incineration of hazardous waste and of household waste.

The WI Directive is meant to reduce pollution caused by emissions to air, soil, surface water and groundwater. It sets emission limit values for pollutants to air such as dust, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, heavy metals and dioxins and furans. In addition, it sets controls on releases to water. It also provides details on monitoring requirements.

The scope includes all common incinerators with the exception of plants which incinerate biomass only and plants with a limited capacity meant for research and development purposes. The Directive discriminates between incineration plants and co-incineration plants; the latter are plants whose main purpose is either energy generation or heat production to sustain chemical processes. Limit values for such plants may be less tight for emissions of dust, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Limit values for incineration plants are summarised in Table 1.

The Directive is in force since December 2000 and had to have been implemented in national legislation in December 2002. From that date new incinerators had to comply with the provisions of the WI Directive. The deadline to bring existing plants into compliance was December 2005.

Table 1. Air emissions limit values for incineration plants

PollutantDayly average valuesHalf-hourly average values 
 (in mg/m3) (in mg/m31)
Total dust1030
Gaseous organic substances, as total organic carbon1020
Hydrogen chloride1060
Hydrogen fluoride14
Sulphur dioxide50200
Nitrogen oxides (NO + NO2), expressed as NO2, for new and existing incineration plants200 400
Nitrogen oxides (NO + NO2), expressed as NO2, for existing incineration plants <6 ton/hr400 
Metals (Cd, Th, Hg) and their compounds 2)0.05 
Metals (As, Sb, Pb, Cr, Co, Cu, Mn, Ni, V) and their compounds 2)0.5 
Dioxins and furans (based on toxic equivalence concept)0.1 ng/m3 3) 

1)       During 3% of the sampling period at most

2)       All average values over the sampling period of a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 8 hours

3)       Average values for a sampling period of a minimum of 6 hours and a maximum of 8 hours