As reflected in the proposals included in the “Fit for 55” climate package, sustainable waste management may contribute to the European goals of emissions reduction. Waste-to-Energy has an instrumental role in the treatment of non-recyclable waste.
On the day of the publication of the “Fit for 55” climate package, ESWET aims to reaffirm Waste-to-Energy’s essential contribution to European waste management. Waste-to-Energy already contributes to the decarbonisation of the sector, as it diverts non-recyclable waste from landfills and recovers energy and secondary raw materials.
Reducing landfills means, in the first place, reducing methane emissions, a gas that is up to 84 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years. Moreover, recovering energy (electricity, heat and steam) and secondary raw materials saves virgin resources and improves Europe’s energy and materials consumption.
Two files included in the “Fit for 55” climate package are directly related to Waste-to-Energy operations: the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the Emissions Trading System (ETS). In both cases, the revisions proposed by the European Commission preserve the positive contribution of Waste-to-Energy to the safe treatment of non-recyclable waste.
Firstly, the proposal for revising the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) accurately addresses the urgency of uptaking every renewable energy source available, including the electricity, steam, heating and cooling generated from non-recyclable waste. Indeed, around 50% of the energy output of Waste-to-Energy plants is renewable as it comes from the biodegradable fraction of waste.
Concerning the ETS revision, the decision to keep the entire waste management sector under the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) is a thoughtful assessment. Including municipal waste incineration alone in the EU ETS without any prior inception impact assessment would cause side-effects such as a higher cost of recycling, additional fees for municipalities and a rise in non-recyclable waste sent to legal and illegal landfills.
The next step to further reduce GHG emissions from non-recyclable waste is to support carbon capture and storage (CCS) implementation in Waste-to-Energy plants. The sector can become carbon neutral or even carbon negative, as demonstrated by several pilot projects in Europe.
“The European Commission set down an ambitious set of measures to drastically reduce the emissions of the European industries. – said Patrick Clerens, ESWET Secretary-General – Waste-to-Energy suppliers are committed to taking the necessary steps to reach carbon neutrality with the support of the European Union”.
Because of the complexity of the topic, ESWET believes that reforms covering the waste management sector should always carefully evaluate environmental and economic consequences, taking into account the broad impact on the entire waste management chain and local energy supply.