Many old incinerators are about to be scrapped, which opens the door for municipalities to consider opportunities in a non-incineration system.
The reality of incineration overcapacity in many European countries provides eye-opening facts about the extent to which incinerators prevent real waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and resource efficiency. This is obvious in Northern Europe, where the incinerators are fed from waste imported from all over Europe, but according to reports, the world has noticed this: incinerators are bad news for recycling.
While the European Commission is increasingly talking about the potential of a zero-waste strategy and the need to use resources wisely, incinerators are increasingly seen as inappropriate and counterproductive elements that hinder sustainable resource-wise future.
For cities and countries that have invested heavily in incineration infrastructure in the past few decades, this is a moment of awakening. Due to strict 20-30 year contracts, these cities and countries have been unable to consider getting rid of the burning-focused system. Provide a stable amount of waste to the incinerator ("input or pay" contract). This is the legacy of the 1980s and 1990s, when the European government with sufficient resources relied on large-scale industrial incinerator infrastructure to dispose of waste and made reducing reliance on landfills its top priority. Today, many old incinerators are about to be scrapped, which opens the door for municipalities to consider opportunities in a non-incineration system. This is a zero waste system that minimizes reliance on waste disposal through reduction, reuse, recycling and better product design. Just enough!
The most significant example of a city moving from incineration to abandoned factories is in northern Italy, which once again caught our attention because it is at the forefront of zero waste development and innovation.
One of the most notable examples is the city of Reggio Emilia, where the old incinerator that had been burning waste for the past 40 years was finally closed in 2012. Normally, incinerators have issued warnings of harmful emissions, there is a lack of pollution monitoring and administrative departments have failed to provide sufficient information to residents in the area. This problematic performance was even submitted to the European Commission.
Now, Reggio Emilia has proposed a strategy to withdraw from the old relationship with the incinerator by maximizing the separation of collection and reuse. In terms of residual waste management, the city has developed a plan to build a MRBT (Material Recycling Biological Treatment) site to further recover materials from residual waste, rather than burning or producing refuse-derived fuel (RDF) for co-incineration .
This approach, combined with a gradual policy of increasing separate collection and recycling rates, enables the system to adapt to the ever-increasing recycling rate, so it is seen as an option to achieve the zero waste vision and system. In fact, compared with incinerators, one of the most important advantages of the MRBT site is that the former is a flexible system, which means that it does not require a stable amount of waste like an incinerator, and it can treat more and more waste from Separately collected materials, so in this sense, it is not inconsistent with policies that encourage waste prevention, reuse, and recycling.
It is worth noting that a resolution passed by the Lombardy Regional Council, Italy's most populous region, officially stated that it is necessary to eliminate excess incineration capacity and adopt a flexible and efficient residual waste management program, with 10 million residents.
The unanimously adopted resolution pointed out that it is necessary to formulate a regional strategy for the “decommissioning” of existing incinerators so that “(incinerators) should be gradually closed, consistent with increasing separate collection and waste reduction., so as to maximize Reduce residual waste". In addition, "should promote further recycling of materials (rather than incineration) to minimize the residual waste management program in landfills." Local zero waste networks and NGOs are now participating to ensure compliance with the resolution in each specific situation.
One of the first cases where the resolution prompted the planned closure of the incinerator was Busto Arsizio, and the council is considering decommissioning the plant. If the incinerator is to continue to operate, it will need to be technically modified to refurbish the equipment. In the case of general overcapacity, increased recovery rates and reduced burning waste, this will be a high financial risk for local authorities. In addition, incinerator technology upgrades may be much more expensive than dismantling factories and investing in the design of new incinerator-free waste management systems, which may be more suitable for supporting zero waste policies.
Similarly, the Veneto region has also raised the debate about dismantling existing incinerators or canceling the construction of new incinerators. The region has 6 million people and the best separate collection rate-the regional average has exceeded 60%, and the peak is Around 90%. Single city. For example, the city of Verona has recently turned to the trend of decommissioning incinerators. In fact, the Veneto Regional Council recently admitted that if a good recycling policy is implemented and its full potential (which may be much less than the time required to build and operate a new incinerator), it will not produce enough waste. Supply new incinerators. Following this eye-opening vision, the City of New York recently announced that they might abandon their plans for a new incinerator and invest in a more resource-efficient path that maximizes recycling and emphasizes reduction and reuse.
Italy is now at the forefront of zero-waste innovation, but many other countries may follow suit. We recently heard important information from Denmark, the European country with the highest waste incineration rate: its latest report on Danish waste policy admits that if it really wants to pay more attention to it, it needs to withdraw from the old-fashioned waste management model. Resource efficiency, not to mention increasing the recycling rate currently far lower than elsewhere in Central Europe (and keeping the level low to feed their ever-hungry incinerators).Other ambitious incinerator projects have been abandoned due to the financial uncertainty of investment, especially in Norfolk (UK), where its 500 million pounds contract has been cancelled, or in Guipúzcoa (Basque Country). The long-term dispute at the incineration plant ended in rejection of the proposal.
In short, we may be staring at the beginning of the end of an era; reducing garbage traveling around Europe to feed the always insatiable beasts, and boosting the local economy through more resource-efficient strategies for separate collection, reuse, and recycling.
Welcome to the era of retirement! The incinerator, it's time to rest.
Note: Be sure to use the #ageofdecommissioning tag to save a list of ongoing stories about the decommissioning of the incinerator.
It is necessary to develop a regional strategy for the "decommissioning" of existing incinerators.
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