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EC offers guidance on recovery of energy from waste and works with EIB to boost investment

One year after adopting its Circular Economy Package, the European Commission (EC) reports on the delivery and progress of key initiatives of its 2015 Action Plan. It took further measures today by establishing a Circular Economy Finance Support Platform with the European Investment Bank (EIB) bringing together investors and innovators.

Municipal solid waste (MSW) entering a pre-treatment unit to separate organic fractions from contaminants such as packaging, metals, sand, glass etc. The former can be used as feedstock for biogas production and the latter, depending on the material, can be reused, recycled or have its energy content recovered in an energy from waste (EfW) facility (photo courtesy Cellwood Machinery).

Municipal solid waste (MSW) entering a pre-treatment unit to separate organic fractions from contaminants such as packaging, metals, sand, glass etc. The former can be used as feedstock for biogas production and the latter, depending on the material, can be reused, recycled or have its energy content recovered in an energy from waste (EfW) facility (photo courtesy Cellwood Machinery).

Today, the European Commission (EC) issued guidance to Member States (MS) on converting waste to energy, proposed a targeted improvement of legislation on certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and announced the establishment of a Circular Economy Finance Support Platform with the European Investment Bank (EIB).

– Building a circular economy for Europe is a key priority for this Commission. We have made good progress and are planning new initiatives in 2017. We are closing the loop of design, production, consumption, and waste management, thereby creating a green, circular and competitive Europe, said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, in a statement.

Circular economy finance support

Building on the momentum of the Investment Plan for Europe, which according to the EC has already mobilised investments worth EUR 164 billion by end-2016, the EC announced the establishment of the Circular Economy Finance Support Platform (CEFSP) with the European Investment Bank (EIB).

– Building on the achievements of the Juncker Investment Plan, I am pleased that we can again work with the EIB to match investors with innovators. Our goal is to upscale investment, both public and private, in the circular economy. This new Platform is an excellent tool to raise awareness of the circular economy projects’ immense business potential and, consequently, draw in more funding for their financing, said Vice-President, Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment, and competitiveness.

The CEFSP will enhance the link between existing instruments, such as the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and the InnovFin – EU Finance for Innovators initiative backed by Horizon 2020, and potentially develop new financial instruments for circular economy projects. It will bring together the Commission, the EIB, National Promotional Banks, institutional investors and other stakeholders, raising awareness of circular economy investment opportunities and promoting best practices amongst potential promoters, analysing projects and their financial needs, and providing advice on structuring and bankability.

– The EIB is pleased to join forces with the European Commission and use our combined financial firepower and expertise to make our economies more circular. As the world’s largest multilateral climate action lender with over EUR 19 billion of dedicated financing last year, we see the circular economy as key to reversing the course of climate change, making more sustainable use of our planet’s scarce resources, and contributing to Europe’s growth. The new Circular Economy Finance Support Platform will be an essential tool to boost awareness and financing of circular economy projects, said Jonathan Taylor, EIB Vice President, responsible for financing environment, climate action and circular economy.

Maximise waste-to-energy benefits

Today’s Commission Communication on the role of waste-to-energy processes in the circular economy will maximise the benefits of this small but innovative part of the EU energy mix. It provides guidance for MS to achieve the right balance of waste-to-energy capacity, highlighting the role of the waste hierarchy which ranks waste management options according to their sustainability and gives top priority to preventing and recycling of waste.

View of boiler house with biomass in-feed from the left and waste from centre.

View of boiler house with biomass in-feed from the left and waste from centre at the Mälarenergi biomass and waste-fired combined heat and power (CHP) plant in Västerås, Sweden.

It helps optimising their contribution to the Energy Union and exploiting the opportunities for cross-border partnerships where this is appropriate and in line with EU environmental goals.

Restrict hazardous waste

The package adopted by the EC also contains a proposal to update legislation to restrict the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS Directive). The proposal promotes substitution of hazardous materials to make the recycling of components more profitable.

Dow ValuePark in Schkopau near Leipzig, Germany includes a rotary kiln for the treatment of hazardous waste and an industrial sludge dryer (photo courtesy Suez).

Dow ValuePark in Schkopau near Leipzig, Germany includes a rotary kiln for the treatment of hazardous waste and an industrial sludge dryer (photo courtesy Suez).

The proposed changes will further facilitate second-hand market operations (e.g. reselling) and repair of electrical and electronic equipment. It is estimated that the measures will prevent more than 3 000 tonnes of hazardous waste per year in the EU, and enable savings of energy and raw materials. In the health sector alone, an estimated EUR 170 million in healthcare costs could be saved.

In its progress report, the Commission also noted key measures taken in areas such as waste, ecodesign, food waste, organic fertilisers, guarantees for consumer goods, and innovation and investment. Circular economy principles have been gradually integrated into industrial best practices, green public procurement, the use of cohesion policy funds, and through new initiatives in the construction and water sectors.

To make the transition to the circular economy happen on the ground, the Commission also calls on the European Parliament and Council to progress with the adoption of the waste legislation proposals, in line with the Joint Declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2017.

In the coming year, the Commission is committed to further deliver on the Circular Economy Action Plan, with a strategy on plastics, a monitoring framework for the circular economy and a proposal for promoting water reuse,

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