Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



This Note suggests that waste issues provide valuable insight into the European Community. As the Community has developed more fully into a common market, the movement of waste across national borders has caused concern in some member states. Waste has flowed from states with more restrictive environmental standards to those with less restrictive standards. In some states, the perceived increase in waste importation gave rise to public outcry for laws that banned any further waste importation.

After illustrating the problems by discussing a waste crisis in Belgium, this Note examines the European Community's response to such problems. This study reveals a trend in waste legislation that has allowed greater restrictions on the movement of waste across the Community. This Note suggests that the Community's legislative responses to the perceived waste crisis are misguided. Moreover, the mistakes of the legislative branch of the EC have been compounded by the judicial arm of the Community, the European Court of Justice. The Court has appeared willing to allow member states to erect trade barriers banning waste importation in order to encourage each state to become self sufficient with regard to waste disposal. As such, a theory of environmental protection called the proximity principle, which mandates the disposal of waste near its source, has eclipsed one of the Community's founding purposes--the free movement of goods. These legislative and judicial developments in environmental law threaten to undermine the Community's ideals.

However, a recent Community proposal for legislation might alleviate this threat. The European Commission has proposed a law that would impose civil liability for environmental damage caused by waste. This law could provide a uniform measure applicable across the Community that would require polluters to pay for the environmental damage that they cause. Though a good idea, this proposed legislation has languished. This Note reasons that the proposed liability law, with a few modifications, represents the best means of promoting both sound environmental policy and the further development of the European Community.