Against the backdrop of the global energy market disruption, FEAD, the European waste management association, highlighted the "fundamental role" the sector has to play in ending the EU's dependence on Russian fossil fuels and tackling the climate crisis. Waste incineration, like anaerobic digestion, was a local, reliable and secure source of power, and waste to energy plants are currently able to supply 18 million EU inhabitants with electricity and 15.2 million inhabitants with heat. Around half of that energy output was renewable, said FEAD.
To enable the waste management sector to realise its full capacity to produce and save energy, the association called on policymakers to preserve the status of biodegradable waste in the Renewable Energy Directive and to include energy recovery (R1) from residual non-hazardous waste in the EU Taxonomy Regulation as an activity substantially contributing to (a transition to) a circular economy. The Regulation is meant to direct financing towards sustainable economic activities. To date, municipal waste incineration has been excluded, limiting project developers' access to sustainable or "green" financing.
The industry association also highlighted the role of recycling in conserving energy, CO2 emissions and raw materials, including fossil fuels. These contributions could be increased through measures that foster recovery and recycling markets, such as mandatory recycled content targets in sectoral legislation; mandatory green public procurement criteria; financial incentives such as reduced VAT for products which re-incorporate raw materials from recycling; and EU-wide end of waste criteria, according to FEAD.
The role of the European waste management sector in the decarbonisation of society, in the promotion of a circular economy, and in the energy independence of the EU "needs to be consistently recognised across EU legislation and its requirements clearly and realistically established with a holistic approach,” said FEAD president Peter Kurth.