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ZWE regrets the European Commission's decision not to include municipal incinerators in the revised EU ETS

For immediate release: Brussels, July 14, 2021

Today, the European Commission (EC) issued its proposal for the reform of the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) to exclude municipal waste from energy incinerators.

Zero Waste Europe regrets this decision, which makes a large number of highly polluting factories (more than 500) no obligation to address their adverse effects on climate change.

Municipal incinerators release large amounts of carbon dioxide—more than 52 million tons in 2018 alone. Between 1990 and 2017, emissions increased by 288%, equivalent to the emissions of 13.4 coal-fired power plants (European Economic Area, 2019).

Janek Vӓhk, Zero Waste European Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Coordinator said:

"Emissions from municipal incinerators have been growing uncontrollably. The EC's decision missed the opportunity to include highly carbon dioxide-intensive industries in the'polluter pays' principle to help encourage other more sustainable and low-carbon treatment options. ".

Since municipal incinerators are not part of ETS, the carbon dioxide emitted by municipal incinerators will cause an unpaid cost of approximately 1.3 billion euros to the society each year.

A new global report released by Tomra concludes that sorting materials from residual waste can reduce 730 million tons of carbon dioxide globally.

The elimination of municipal incinerators also undermines member states' decarbonization efforts. The electricity produced by municipal incinerators is more carbon intensive than electricity produced through the traditional use of fossil fuels (such as natural gas); most importantly, it is twice the average carbon intensity of the EU's marginal power grid.

“Although the grid should be decarbonized as more renewable energy sources come online, the electricity generated by incinerators is becoming a major climate issue, undermining the further development of renewable energy in EU member states,” continued Janek Vӓhk.

The experience of countries that impose a carbon dioxide tax on incinerators shows that this increases the incentive to recycle these materials. The inclusion of municipal incinerators in the revised ETS will also benefit renewable energy producers, who currently have to compete unfairly with the dirty energy of incinerators.

Since this is only the first step in the revision of the EU ETS, "Zero Waste Europe" calls on the European Parliament and the Council of the European Communities to revise the proposal and include municipal waste incineration plants so that they can pay for emissions.


Media contact

Janek Vähk, European Zero Waste Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Coordinator

Berta Corredor, European Zero Waste Press Officer | +32 471965593

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About the latest post

The guidelines warn that greenhouse gas emissions from incinerators are usually worse than expected-05/08/2021 Zero waste camps in Belgium: how to support and train youth movements to achieve zero waste-20/07/2021 ZWE decides against the European Commission The inclusion of municipal incinerators expresses regret. EU ETS revision-14/07/2021

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