The Communication, published last week by the Commission, sets out to provide guidance for member states to achieve the “right balance of waste-to-energy capacity”, highlighting the role of the waste hierarchy and to provide guidance to member states on how to make better use of economic instruments and capacity planning with a view to avoiding or addressing potential overcapacity in waste incineration.
It states that the rules on separate collection and more ambitious recycling targets “are expected to reduce the amount of waste potentially available for waste-to-energy processes such as incineration and co-incineration”.
However, according to a recent study on the technical potential of waste-to-energy, prepared by the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC), in the framework of this Communication, we can expect in the EU a stable, or even increasing amount of feedstock for the waste-to-energy processes.
This states: “(…) despite the existing potential for waste prevention and reduced generation of these streams [household and similar waste] through better and more widespread source-separated collection, energy recovery is likely to increase to support the necessary massive diversion from landfill. Moreover, higher recycling rates for other waste types may lead to a further increase in in the generation of sorting residues, unless the quality of the materials collected separately at source improves.”
ESWET is questioning how these two statements are compatible.
ESWET has also highlighted that incineration capacity is unevenly spread within the EU. Indeed, 13 member states still landfill more than 50% of their municipal waste and they have no or very little waste-to-energy capacity.
Hence, ESWET believes that there is room for integrated waste management plans, including new thermal recovery facilities, in these regions. Therefore, financial support should be given for the implementation of such integrated waste management strategies, including new thermal recovery facilities.
It also says it is important to notice that waste statistics used for assessing incineration capacities do not take into account commercial and industrial waste, which is also treated in thermal energy recovery facilities.
As it is mentioned in the study on incineration capacities (also prepared to support this Communication) it is difficult to identify share of mixed municipal waste and non-municipal waste in the plants. Municipal waste generation and waste-to-energy capacities are therefore figures that are difficult to compare. Consequently ESWET advises caution when talking about risk of overcapacities.
The European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) has also said it would have liked the Communication to have further stressed the contribution of waste to energy in dealing with residual waste and in strengthening the EU energy independency and efficiency.
“Moreover, it must be recognised that the energy recovery sector plays a crucial role in extracting value from some of the wastes which cannot be treated further up the hierarchy (eg, sorting residues from recycling),” it said.
“Thereby, it is important that all forms of energy recovery treatment technologies need to be given equal opportunities. Incentives to ensure a stable market for secondary raw materials and a level playing field between primary and secondary raw materials are crucial to ensure waste is moving up the waste hierarchy. Finally, we would like to stress the unclarity as to whether the Communication also includes commercial and industrial waste.”