New EU rules for treatment and reuse

4 June 2024

The European Parliament has approved new rules on the collection, treatment and discharge of urban wastewater.

MEPs adopted the political agreement reached in the trilogue negotiations with 481 votes in favour, 79 against and 26 abstentions.

Under the new rules, Member States will have to ensure the collection of urban wastewater and the application of secondary treatment (removal of biodegradable organic matter) to the collected wastewater before discharge in agglomerations of 1,000 p.e. (population equivalent) or more.


By the following deadlines, Member States will have to ensure that tertiary treatment  is provided:

  • in all plants of 150,000 p.e. and above by 2039
  • in plants of 10,000 p.e. and above by 2045, and
  • in all plants above 150,000 p.e. (and above 10,000 p.e. based on a risk assessment), additional treatment will be required to remove a wide range of micropollutants (“quaternary treatment”) by 2045

Extended producer responsibility (EPR)

To help cover the costs of the additional treatment to remove micropollutants from urban wastewater, the co-legislators agreed on an EPR scheme for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Producers of these products shall pay at least 80% of the cost of the new measures, with the remainder covered by national funding.

The new Directive states that EPR is the most appropriate means to limit the financial impact on taxpayers and water tariffs, while providing an incentive to develop greener products.

In this context, EPR should apply regardless of whether the products are placed on the market, whether their individual components have been manufactured in a Member State or in a third country, whether the producers are established in the European Union or whether the product is placed on the market via a digital platform.

In addition, the Commission will closely monitor urban wastewater and regularly assess whether other industrial sectors should be included in the EPR scheme.

Following adoption by the Parliament, the dossier awaits final approval by the Council before it is published in the Official Journal of the European Union.