- The complementary role of waste to energy
The Commission will bring forward a new initiative on waste to energy this year as part of its forthcoming Energy Union. This is expected to stress the important role that energy from waste will need to play going forward for those waste types which are either recycling residues, or are unrecyclable for technical, environmental or economic reasons. While separate collection and recycling of waste must be supported where technically, environmentally and economically practicable, the remaining materials (e.g. sorting residues) which cannot be fully reused or recycled should be treated in the most sustainable way, in line with the waste hierarchy. Moreover, energy recovery or incineration may be the overall most sustainable option for some waste including some containing hazardous substances of which the risks cannot be adequately controlled when recycled. Waste to energy goes far beyond conventional waste incineration and includes processes such as biogas production from anaerobic digestion, SRF production, pyrolysis and gasification. FEAD believes that all these forms of energy recovery from waste need to be given equal opportunities. The ultimate goal should be a step by step reduction of residual waste but as long as there continues to be residual waste, energy recovery will play a role in the circular economy.
The achievement of a true circular economy will need to cover a full circle starting with eco-design thereby ensuring that the amount of waste which cannot be recycled is reduced to a minimum. Supply side measures alone such as recycling or landfill diversion targets will not deliver a more circular economy. Regulatory changes and economic instruments are also needed on the demand side to create more sustainable and resilient markets for secondary raw materials.