The European Commission published a Communication on the role of waste to energy in the circular economy. This document suggests that the EU institution has a sceptical and rather guarded attitude towards waste incineration. In particular, the Commission fears that increasing waste-to-energy capacity might jeopardise recycling and thus undermine the waste hierarchy.
The generation of energy from waste could play a role in the transition to a circular economy, the Commission concludes in the Communication. However, the waste hierarchy must be used as a guiding principle. Waste incineration must not prevent higher levels of prevention, reuse and recycling.
Commission backs phasing out public funding, introducing incineration taxes
When planning future investments in waste-to-energy capacity, member states must consider the risk of "stranded assets", the Commission notes. The institution believes that new plants should only be built if the supply of enough suitable waste is guaranteed to sustain operation for their entire lifespan of about 20 to 30 years without neglecting separate collection and recycling obligations.
The Commission suggests that member states currently landfilling the majority of their municipal waste first invest in separate collection structures and in recycling. Increasing separate collection means a reduction in the generation of mixed municipal waste that can only be incinerated, according to the Commission's reasoning. The institution recommends that member states with large amounts of incineration capacity phase out funding for waste incineration and either introduce or raise incineration taxes.