Parliament passes new environment protection act

Ljubljana – The National Assembly endorsed on Wednesday the new environment protection act, which has been labelled by Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak as an “environmental constitution”. It predominantly deals with management of packaging waste, while also introducing measures to prevent or reduce the generation of all kinds of waste.

According to the minister, the main goal and ambition of the act is to consistently protect the environment with the implementation of the latest environment protection standards and and by tackling existing problems.

Most importantly, the bill would transpose EU rules and new directives, especially on the expanded producer responsibility for packaging, which is why Vizjak argued that the act needed to be passed as soon as possible.

The new act, which was passed with 44 votes in favour and two against, covers all segments of the environment – air, water, nature conservation and climate change.

It introduces instruments of environmental protection, such as planning, environmental impact assessment, permits and financial instruments, Andrej Vizjak told the MPs today as additional amendments were debated in parliament.

The minister argued that Slovenia needed a new, modern law that transposed several EU provisions, including on the principles of circular economy, polluter pays and expanded producer responsibility for packaging.

For the latter, the act sets up “new and healthy foundations for an efficient, transparent and cost-optimal system”, Vizjak said.

For every mass flow of waste it designates only one non-profit organisation that will look for the most favourable providers of waste treatment on behalf of producers.

This organisation can only be owned by companies that produce products that are subject to expanded producer responsibility.

This solution, which is expected to eliminate the problems of accumulation of packaging waste in public utilities because waste management companies are not taking over waste, has been criticised by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS).

It argues that companies will no longer be able to choose a contractor for management of packaging waste in industrial zones, which, according to the GZS, means the collapse of an established and well-functioning system.

The act stipulates that producers must cover the costs of collection, transportation and processing of waste generated by their products, even when collection of this waste is defined as a mandatory public utility service.

Vizjak has assessed that this provision could result in lower utility bills for households.

The act introduces measures to prevent or reduce generation of waste, encourages reduction of the harmful effects of generated waste and implements provisions for reducing the overall environmental impact of the use of resources.

It regulates the conduct of the state in the event of excessive environmental pollution due to departures from relevant rules, for example disposal of wastewater treatment sludge in water protection areas, under the system in force for environmental disasters.