Non-recyclable waste is not a fossil fuel that can be replaced with renewables or low-carbon alternatives. It is waste that needs a safe and controlled treatment, preferably not landfills. The second vote on the Emissions Trading System (ETS) at the Plenary "might help MEPs to find a new balance on this topic," the European Suppliers of Waste-to-Energy Technology (ESWET) says.
The climate emergency calls for the swift decarbonization of Europe, and the EU ETS is the cornerstone of this effort, incentivizing industries to decrease their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
In this context, ESWET says that it wishes to remind the legislators of the importance of preserving the integrated feature of waste management in the ETS revision if they want to successfully decarbonize the waste sector.
While waste prevention, reuse, and recycling are the rightful priorities, making Waste-to-Energy (WtE) more expensive will not necessarily improve the waste management framework.
On the contrary, it could lead to more non-recyclable waste being diverted to landfills as the cheapest alternative, hampering the waste hierarchy.
The treatment with Waste-to-Energy will become more expensive for both municipalities and the recycling industry relying on WtE to treat non-recyclable waste rejected from its facilities.
Supporting a balanced waste management ecosystem is key to reaching the EU objectives of decarbonization, circular economy, and zero pollution. That is why ESWET calls on the European Parliament to stress the need for a conditional impact assessment prior to any inclusion of Waste-to-Energy in the ETS to ensure it does not trigger detrimental side-effects on the entire waste management chain, explained Patrick Clerens, Secretary General of ESWET.
ESWET also highlights that when it comes to GHG emissions from the waste sector, landfills are the main source, by the emissions of methane which is a GHG 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period.
Diversion of waste from landfills is the main contributor to GHG mitigation in the waste management sector and Waste-to-Energy plants have the mission to make sure non-recyclable waste is not sent to landfills.
Instead, incinerators with energy and materials recovery – Waste-to-Energy – offset their emissions via landfill diversion, and recovery of energy such as electricity, heating, cooling, and steam, and materials including aluminum, iron, and copper, that would otherwise be lost for the circular economy.
Finally, as a further step, Waste-to-Energy has the potential to go carbon negative with the integration of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies.
Yet proper EU support is needed to enable the WtE sector to contribute to clean electricity production and reduction of GHG emissions – attributes that the recent 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report recognizes, ESWET points out.