On 24th September 2019 CEWEP, representing the operators of European Waste-to-Energy plants launched the first ever Waste-to-Energy Sustainability Roadmap. The new document, presented in front of more than 100 European policymakers, stakeholders and industry representatives in Brussels details the sector’s vision to 2035 showing how the Waste-to-Energy sector provides essential services to the society.
“We cannot talk about circular economy in 2035 without talking about how to keep the material cycles clean, how to make sure that all the waste that cannot be recycled is still treated securely, that all the value inherent in the residual waste, energy and materials, is used. In other words, as Waste-to-Energy sector, we feel at home in the circular economy, we are and we will be needed.”- said Paul De Bruycker, the President of CEWEP during the event.
According to CEWEP calculations, Europe will still produce around 142 million tonnes of residual waste that will need treatment in 2035 even if all the waste targets set by EU Waste Laws adopted in 2018 are reached on time. A debate is needed of how to best treat this waste, especially since current treatment capacities would not be sufficient for around 40 million of this residual waste (more information). Furthermore, future EU legislation should tackle commercial and industrial waste by setting binding recycling and landfill diversion targets for these waste streams.
The Roadmap calls for recognition of Waste-to-Energy’s role in treating waste contaminated with substances which are not fit for recycling and this way enabling quality recycling. Additionally, Waste-to-Energy also contributes to recycling by recovering metals and minerals from the bottom ash. While the recovered metals are counted towards the recycling targets, the recycling of the mineral fraction of bottom ash does not have the same recognition even though raw materials like sand and gravel that would be needed in various construction applications are replaced in this manner.
In its Roadmap CEWEP calls for recognition of Waste-to-Energy’s holistic role in climate protection by treating waste that would otherwise end up in landfills and replacing fossil fuels that would have been burned in conventional power plants. The electricity, heat and steam produced by European Waste-to-Energy Plants are supplied to residents and industry, however, expansion of the available infrastructure would help to utilise this energy even more efficiently.
“A lot of questions have been popping up: how to treat mixed waste, how to reliably treat commercial and industrial waste, how to significantly reduce large scale landfilling, how to decrease GHG emission, etc. All these important issues need to be tackled and we need Waste-to-Energy for that”, summarised Paul De Bruycker.
The event was co-organised with ESWET, the European association representing manufacturers in the field of Waste- to-Energy Technology, where they also presented a Vision of Waste-to-Energy in 2050: Clean Technologies for Sustainable Waste Management.