To mark the global climate strike called for this Friday, September 27, Aeversu, the Spanish Association of Energy Recovery from Municipal Solid Waste, is highlighting the fact that energy recovery or waste-to-energy (WtE) is one of the most important elements in the fight to mitigate climate change.
Moreover, WtE is preferable to disposal in all respects, given that landfills emit 19 times more CO2 than energy recovery plants, according to an official study carried out by the German Environment Ministry.
Aeversu supports international scientists who have been warning about the existence of a serious climate crisis for many years, and the association underlines the role played by WtE in reducing greenhouse gases (GHG), as recently published by UN Environment.
The report by the UN’s International Environmental Technology Centre outlines how Waste to Energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions by replacing waste disposal in landfills and open burning of waste. The world’s most advanced regions now treat between 25% and 30% of waste using this technology. In fact, the study shows that “the air emitted by certain waste-to-energy chimneys can be cleaner than the air flowing in” and it also emphasises “that the climate benefits of waste-to-energy extend beyond renewables”.
Waste to Energy in northern Europe
There are 598 plants in Europe, of which only 11 are located in Spain and Andorra. “Waste to Energy has great potential but this potential is not being availed of in our country”, explains Rafael Guinea, President of Aeversu. He points out that, “Spain must work on its waste management models and significantly reduce the fraction sent to landfill”.
“We must increase reuse and recycling, and double the energy recovery rate in order to achieve the minimum rate of 25% of waste treated using this technology by our northern European neighbours”, is the message from Aeversu. This is of particular importance given that the countries that recycle most are also the countries that recover most energy from their waste.
These countries have replaced their landfills with waste-to-energy plants, which are even located in city centres, without health risks of any kind for residents. The WtE plant in Copenhagen, for example, features a ski slope on its roof. Moreover, through the implementation of WtE, these countries have achieved landfilling rates of less than 3%, while 54% of waste in Spain accumulates in landfills, with all the associated environmental consequences.
Fewer speeches and more action
For the last year, students from all over the world have taken to the streets every Friday to demand solutions. This Friday, over 300 organisations will join the protest. They are asking for fewer speeches and more action to halt global warming.
The serious situation of our planet requires an urgent change to a waste treatment model that prioritises reduction, reuse and recycling over disposal, and includes thermal waste-to-energy options. In order to achieve integrated, sustainable waste management, it is necessary to integrate the most advanced technologies, such as those implemented at WtE plants. At the same time, governments must take action at local level.