ZWE report says EU has a surplus in waste incineration capacity


zero waste europe

The EU has a “surplus” in waste incineration capacities and a moratorium on new incinerators must be considered, a new report by Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) is urging.

The report, titled “Enough Is Enough: The case for a moratorium on incineration”, calls for strong coordinated effort at the EU level.

The EU has consistently seen an annual increase of approximately 8 million tonnes in waste incineration capacity from 2004 to 2020, according to the ZWE – 60 million tonnes of additional waste incineration capacity was spent unused in 2020. ZWE estimates that by 2023, the total capacity may have soared to around 220 million tonnes.

The report finds that even with intervening measures in place, surplus capacity would still stand around the same mark.

As a solution, ZWE is calling for a moratorium on waste incinerators in the EU to address waste treatment capacity and steer waste management toward a more sustainable path. To achieve this, the organisation says “coordinated efforts” among Member States are essential to establish “environmentally responsible waste management practices”.

The EU must reassess the role of incineration in its waste management hierarchy.

The report recommends reevaluating incineration’s role in the waste hierarchy and potentially reclassifying it as a disposal operation. The report also calls for a reconsideration of the 10% landfill quota, especially for properly treated residual waste.

By December 2024, the Waste Framework Directive mandates an assessment of disposal operations, which ZWE says offers an opportunity to revisit incineration’s role in the waste hierarchy and tackle overcapacity concerns. The report suggests that 5% of incinerators could be decommissioned every year.

Commenting on the report, Janek Vahk, Zero Pollution Policy Manager at ZWE, said: “In an era where waste management and environmental sustainability take centre stage, the findings of this study for ZWE are clear: it’s time for a moratorium on incineration.

“With overcapacity looming and recycling targets on the horizon, the EU must reassess the role of incineration in its waste management hierarchy.

“As we approach the Waste Framework Directive’s Article 12 assessment deadline, the call for change is louder than ever – incineration must be reclassified as a disposal operation, with strict criteria for the treatment of municipal waste.”

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