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European guidelines move WtE facilities up waste hierarchy

Waste-to-energy (WtE) plants will now have the opportunity to move up the waste hierarchy after the European Commission published guidelines that classify them as ‘energy recovery’ rather than ‘waste disposal’.

On 1 July, the Commission published a guide to the energy efficiency formula known as R1 for thermal WtE facilities. Plants that provide electricity to the local community and industry, and harness heat produced in the process, will be placed under ‘energy recovery’.

Set out in the revised Waste Framework Directive, the R1 formula aims to provide clarity to industry.

The Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) has welcomed the report. Managing director Ella Stengler said: “The aim of the energy efficiency criterion in the r-WFD – to provide incentives to WtE plant operators for improvement of energy efficiency, thus saving fossil fuels and CO2 emissions – is already being achieved, because many WtE plants not yet reaching the energy efficiency threshold are making considerable efforts to improve their energy efficiency.”

CEWEP adds that WtE plants that are still classed as waste disposal are still treating waste in an environmentally sound way, recovering as much value out of the waste as they can. Lack of heat capture is not always the fault of the plants but a result of local conditions where extra infrastructure cannot be built.

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