The energy-from-waste (EfW) industry across Europe has backed a call to count metals recovered from incinerator bottom ash (IBA) towards recycling targets.
Six associations (see below) say a European Commission proposal within the Waste Framework Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive would give EfW plant operators additional incentives to recycle more metals from IBA.
“The remaining residues after the bottom ash sorting phase from EfW plants should be considered as valuable secondary material fit for recycling within the European circular economy (CE),” they said in a joint statement.
“Member states should be able to report these extra quantities in their annual recycling reports to the EU statistical services, in order to meet the new and ambitious targets indicated in the waste proposals of the revised EU CE package.”
Steel and aluminium are the most abundant metals in IBA. Aluminium melts but re-solidifies into droplets which can be sorted and recycled. The sorted steel fraction is used directly for the production of new steel.
The joint call came from: Association of European Producers of Steel for Packaging; Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants; European Suppliers of Waste-to-Energy Technology; European Aluminium; Fédération Internationale du Recyclage; Municipal Waste Europe
What is IBA?
Bottom ash is composed of inert, non-combustible materials left over after the combustion process: sand, stones, ashes from burnt material. It also contains metals that are embedded in the residual waste, such as thin aluminium foils, which could not be separately collected. Metals such as steel, aluminium, copper and zinc can be recycled from the bottom ash. Bottom ash is processed either on-site or in specialised facilities. Usually, the first step is to use a magnet to extract ferrous metals from the ash. Bottom ash is then sorted in different fractions based on the size of the residues. This allows for a more accurate separation of the various non-ferrous metals with the eddy current separation technique.
- Yearly production in the EU: 18 million tonnes
- Composition: mineral fraction 80-85%; metals 10-12% (steel and non-ferrous)