A communication on energy from waste (EfW) from the European Commission has been criticised for being driven by politics rather than facts.
The document, published on 26 January, advises member states to ”gradually phase out public support for the recovery of energy from mixed waste”.
At a launch in Brussels, first vice-president Frans Timmermans (pictured) said: ”The last thing I want is to stimulate incineration and create a market for incineration in the sense that people would be demanding incineration. We need to avoid that as much as possible.
”It is, at the end of the day, unavoidable for a small part but only at the stage when recycling is no longer possible.”
In response, the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) criticised the communication, saying it fell short of the group’s expectations.
“Unfortunately, the resulted text has more basis in political considerations than in facts and science,” CEWEP president Ferdinand Kleppmann said.
He said the document also focused on anaerobic digestion (AD) at the expense of other EfW technologies which were fundamental to member states’ strategies.
“It has to be kept in mind that almost half of the member states still landfill more than 50% of their municipal waste and have no or little EfW incineration capacity.
“EU28 landfills more than 67 million tonnes of municipal waste every year. Some of the recommendations of the communication are even in conflict with the landfill diversion targets.”
The Commission’s communication entrenches AD as recycling in the waste hierarchy because it produces a digestate to be used as fertiliser and a biogas.
It reads: “Processes such as AD which result in the production of a biogas and of a digestate are regarded by EU waste legislation as a recycling operation.”
The communication references an EU decision made in 2011, which states “the input to the aerobic or anaerobic treatment may be counted as recycled where that treatment generates compost or digestate which, following any further necessary reprocessing, is used as a recycled product, material or substance for land treatment resulting in benefit to agriculture or ecological improvement”.
But according to the CEWEP, this refers only to AD used for digestate production and ”clearly does not include the production of biogas”. This also contradicts UK guidance, which puts AD lower down in the hierarchy as a type of energy recovery.
Ad in waste hierarchy