A recent consultancy report claims that there is not much difference between landfill and incineration from a climate perspective. CEWEP claims that the report ignors that incineration with high energy efficiency (energy recovery) is higher up the waste hierarchy than landfilling.
CEWEP points out that numerous scientists experienced in the field agree, that “with efficient electricity and heat recovery waste to energy plants contribute significantly to reducing the climate impacts of modern waste management and appear much more climate friendly than when the waste is disposed of in landfills.”
CEWEP also critises that the methodology for the report was not reported in a transparent way. According to the organization, assumptions laid down for the Waste-to-Energy (WtE) performance create a clear underestimation of the climate benefits, e.g. consideration of electricity-only plants while the vast majority of European WtE plants generate Combined Heat and Power, and exclusion of benefits of metal recycling from WtE’s bottom ash.
CEWEP is concerned that the consultancy report could encourage countries, which landfill large amounts of waste, to simply continue landfilling. This is even more of a concern for countries outside Europe, sometimes lacking application of adequate landfilling standards, i.e. sufficient groundwater protection and landfill gas capture.
CEWEP is clear about the additional benefits of landfill diversion policy: apart from Greenhouse gas mitigation, landfill minimisation is crucially important for environmental and health reasons: avoiding groundwater pollution through potential leachate, loss of land and preventing microplastics from being blown by the wind from (legal and illegal) landfills into the seas or rivers.