Skip to content

Towards a new European thinking model of turning waste into energy?

The latest news from the European Commission proposes a positive vision for a more circular Europe

The European Commission issued a newsletter on the role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy on January 26. Although non-binding, the newsletter analyzes the current role of waste-to-energy conversion and provides guidance to member states on how to deal with the resulting problems.

From the perspective of zero waste in Europe, the committee has changed its stance from promoting incineration to acknowledging issues related to overcapacity, distorted economic incentives, and rapidly phasing out landfills and transferring waste from these places to incinerators instead of Risks in prevention, reuse and recycling.

In this regard, the committee recommends that those member states that rely heavily on landfills should focus on separate collection, improving recycling capacity, and transferring biological waste from landfills. It insists that if these member states want to obtain energy from waste, it is recommended that they recycle biological waste through anaerobic digestion. In addition, they were asked to consider the commitments and targets (separate collection and recycling targets) for the next 20-30 years, and carefully evaluate the expected evolution of mixed waste when planning the infrastructure to avoid regrettable investments (i.e. redundant incinerators). ) ).

For member states that rely heavily on incineration, the committee calls on them to increase waste-to-energy taxes, phase out public support programs, eliminate old facilities and suspend new facilities. The case of cancelling waste-to-energy funding has been extended to all member states so as not to distort waste levels. In this sense, the European Commission recognizes that the largest waste treatment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is prevention, reuse and recycling, and needs to be promoted. Eunomia's 2015 European Zero Waste Report has already shown this.

Zero Waste Europe welcomes this call, but the committee will show this ambition when it proposed to revise the Renewable Energy Directive in November last year, which opened the door to the incineration of renewable energy subsidies. ZWE expects members of the European Parliament and governments to pay attention to this communication when reviewing directives and to maintain consistency between EU legislation.

However, ZWE pointed out that the text still believes that waste incineration plays a role in the circular economy, which is a conceptual contradiction, because if the material cycle is effectively closed, nothing can be burned. To be more accurate, the capacity of waste incineration to generate electricity will be used during the transition to a circular economy, but once appropriate materials and value preservation policies are successfully implemented, waste incineration will be redundant.

Finally, ZWE warned the committee about its current double standards, its waste-to-energy (WtE) approach in Europe and its support for WtE in other parts of the world, especially in the southern part of the world, where we have seen successful recycling programs have been Demolition to support incineration plants funded by Europe.

Nevertheless, this communication seems to have changed the mentality of the European Commission and is a positive step towards phasing out subsidies that are harmful to the environment and moving towards zero waste.

"The newsletter analyzes the current role of waste-to-energy conversion and provides guidance to member states on how to deal with the resulting problems."

About the latest post

Madrid plans to phase out incineration by 2025-03/07/2018 Say goodbye to the roadside containers in Barcelona? -21/02/2018 Europe at a crossroads: After China bans the import of plastic waste, what should we do now? -13/02/2018

Previous article Reuse the network