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EU Bioenergy: Time to follow the Waste Hierarchy

EU Bioenergy: It's time to learn about the waste hierarchy

Zero Waste Europe’s response to the EU’s public consultation on the post-2020 sustainable bioenergy policy.

Today, the European Zero Waste Network and many other organizations around the world call on the European Commission to use a waste grading system to guide the EU’s post-2020 sustainable bioenergy policy and to phase out harmful subsidies that support organic waste incineration energy. According to the waste classification system, biological waste should be prevented first, then fed to humans or animals, and finally used for composting or anaerobic digestion, because these solutions can minimize greenhouse gas emissions and bring other common benefits.

Click here to read the full content we submitted to the Bioenergy Consulting.

Molly Scott Cato, Department of Green Environment, Southwest UK:

We must stop investing in destructive incineration, which runs counter to the idea of ​​a circular economy and undermines the waste hierarchy that prioritizes waste prevention, recycling, composting, and anaerobic digestion.

The main recommendations of the sustainable bioenergy policy contained in the official response to the consultation by Zero Waste Europe are:

1. The EU climate and energy policy should be consistent with the waste levels in the circular economy package, and respect the priority of reduction or composting/anaerobic digestion before incineration.

It is time for EU climate and energy policy to fully consider the contribution of the waste sector to the low-carbon economy and promote the appropriate adjustment of the most climate-friendly options in the waste management sector, as described in the waste hierarchy. In particular, the sustainable policy on bioenergy should clearly exclude municipal solid waste as a source of sustainable energy.

Mariel Vilella, Deputy Director of Zero Waste Europe:

We should all aim for 100% renewable energy, but if it will eventually increase deforestation, burning, resource depletion and air pollution, then it will not do any good for mitigating climate change. Renewable energy should be synonymous with clean and sustainable energy, but unfortunately, this is not the case now.

2. The harmful renewable energy subsidies for extracting energy from residual waste should be phased out.

Extracting energy from residual waste is a net contributor to the greenhouse gas emission inventory, not a saver. 3 These harmful subsidies are one of the main obstacles to the full implementation of the circular economy. This is an extremely counterproductive misalignment policy between the two basic pillars of the EU. This is a fundamental resource allocation error and should be stopped immediately.

3. The EU climate and energy policy should focus on evaluating the energy embedded in products and establishing an energy-saving paradigm, rather than burning limited natural resources to extract energy.

The energy policy of a low-carbon economy should gradually get rid of extracting as much energy as possible from waste, and instead adopt measures to protect the energy embedded in products, which is a more effective and sustainable resource method.

Antigone Dalamaga, Director of the Ecological Circulation Society and President of RREUSE Network:

We must focus on implementing the upper level of the waste hierarchy. Prevention, reuse, recycling and composting can protect the environment and create jobs. Compared with alternatives to composting and anaerobic digestion, incineration of organic waste is not an environmentally sustainable or economically viable option.

In short, the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive and the formulation of sustainable bioenergy policies are an opportunity for Europe to become a leader in clean, sustainable and renewable energy, but it is essential to ensure that these sources are clean, efficient and scientific-based.

Flore Berlingen, Director of Zero Waste France:

In France and throughout Europe, a zero-waste strategy that prioritizes waste prevention, reuse, recycling and composting is gaining momentum. The EU's sustainable bioenergy policy should follow the waste hierarchy and promote this positive trend to ensure that organic waste is used in the most climate-friendly way.

"Renewable energy should be synonymous with clean and sustainable energy. Unfortunately, this is not the case now."

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