ZWE: FEAD misunderstood key messages in recent report

ZWE regrets that FEAD has misunderstood the key messages in its recent report on mixed waste sorting.
Burkard Vogt,

ZWE is not suggesting that mixed waste sorting (MWS) provides an alternative to source separation. To be precise, the research conducted examined MWS under the following conditions

  • That DRS is rolled out everywhere and achieves the Single-use Plastics Directive’s targets
  • The recyclability of plastics is improved
  • And then two source separation scenarios: 1) No improvement and 2) Crucially that all the EU achieves the highest demonstrated separate collection rates for plastics of 75%.

The study concluded that achieving higher separate collection rates will be challenging and difficult. As FEAD notes, there have been years of investment in separate collection and the average EU performance on plastics is still poor at best.

Debating what the actual performance of separate collection could be is not the point of the report. It is at the higher end of likely separate collection performance, which may take years to achieve and at considerable cost, the separation performance is still not good enough and too many valuable fossil-derived resources will be incinerated to produce unrenewable energy. Those resources can be separated by MWS and put to good use in a circular economy, displacing the need for virgin materials and avoiding the carbon emissions from energy from waste.

FEAD is incorrect to assume that fractions are “highly and irreversibly contaminated”. Plastics and metals may have higher amounts of moisture and organic material, but this does not prevent recycling. Perhaps it does require further investment into better plastic wash plants. As rightly pointed by FEAD, elevated organic and moisture content in papers is detrimental to paper recycling, but the material can be recycled. Nevertheless, separation of papers through MWS is not as important as separating the fossil-derived materials.

FEAD argues there are more cost-efficient measures that could be delivered. However, they are not clear what these are. Driving very high collection rates through separate collection, if achievable at all, are likely to be expensive. Decarbonising incineration emissions through carbon capture is likely to be more expensive, and this does not help keep resources in a circular economy.


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