What is a European Waste List code and what is it for?

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What is the European Waste List code?

The unified classification of waste is essential in order to catalogue and manage the different existing materials in a homogeneous way. For this purpose, there is a harmonised waste list at European level: the European Waste List (EWL) within which we find different codes consisting of 6 digits, the European Waste List code. These six digits have the following meaning:

  1. The first two digits correspond to the category of origin.
  2. The next two digits indicate the sector of activity, the process or the operators from which it originates.
  3. The last two digits identify the waste.

In the case of the European Waste List codes, the division is as follows:

  • 20 chapters relating to the generating source or type of waste (2-digit codes).
  • Sub-chapters referring to the generation processes, the resulting materials or the type of waste (4-digit codes).  

What does the asterisk* in an EWL code mean?

  • Wastes with an EWL code followed by an asterisk (*) are considered as hazardous waste.
  • Waste whose EWL code is NOT followed by an asterisk (*) is considered NOT hazardous.

Types of European Waste List code

The European Waste List allows for three types of codes:

Absolute non-hazardous codes

This type of waste is classified as non-hazardous and no further assessment is required.

Absolute hazardous codes

Absolute hazardous codes classify these wastes as hazardous and no further assessment is necessary. However, their hazard characteristics must be determined for the purpose of correct labelling.

Mirror EWL codes

The mirror EWL code is applied to wastes that can be classified as hazardous and non-hazardous and only vary by one characteristic. Therefore, for its classification it is important to take into account its composition and in the case that it cannot be determined or "to evaluate the hazardous characteristics of the waste in question, it should be classified as hazardous waste in application of the precautionary principle," according to the Ministry for Ecological Transition (MITECO).

How a waste is assigned an European Waste List code

In order to determine whether a waste is hazardous or not and, where appropriate, to define its hazardous characteristics, the following process must be followed:

Determining whether the substance or object is a waste

Thus, it is necessary to define whether the product or component is a waste, as defined in Law 7/2022 of 8 April on waste and contaminated soil for a circular economy.

Assign a EWL code

As explained above, this waste can be one of the following: absolute hazardous waste code, absolute non-hazardous waste code or a mirror code.

In case it is assigned a mirror code or an absolute hazardous waste code, it is necessary to continue with the following steps.

Determine waste composition by information gathering

In this step, a collection of all relevant information on the composition of the waste shall be carried out in order to be able to assess its hazardous characteristics according to the criteria of Annex I of Law 7/2022 of 8 April.

If it is not possible to determine the hazardous substances present in the waste using the available information, it is necessary to proceed to the next step.

Determination of waste composition by analytical methods

By applying the criteria of Annex I of Law 7/2022 of 8 April, the hazardous characteristics shall be assessed and the composition of the waste shall be determined by analytical methods.

When this is not possible, it is necessary to continue with the step explained below.

Assessing the hazard characteristics by testing

If testing is not possible or advisable and the information obtained from the analytical method does not allow classification of the waste, the waste is classified as hazardous waste.

If a hazardous characteristic of a waste is assessed by testing, and also on the basis of the concentration of hazardous substances according to Annex I of Act 7/2022 of 8 April, the test results prevail.

Determining whether the waste contains persistent organic pollutants

In this last step, it must be determined whether the waste contains any of the persistent organic pollutants mentioned in Decision 2014/955/EU above the limits set out in Annex IV of the POPs Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2019/1021 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on persistent organic pollutants).

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