Energy from mixed waste should not get renewable energy subsidies, says Zero Waste Europe

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Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has called on the European Parliament to exclude subsidies for waste-to-energy from the mixed municipal solid waste currently included in the Commission’s proposal on RED II.

In a joint letter with European plastics and paper recyclers Zero Waste Europe warns that the Commission proposal on RED II (Renewable Energy Directive) is not consistent with circular economy policies and the EU’s climate policy agenda.

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The proposal considers the biomass fraction of mixed municipal solid waste as a source of renewable energy, allowing Member States to support various forms on energy generation from waste, including landfill gas, incineration, and other thermal treatments, as well as anaerobic digestion, to meet the targets set under the RED II.
Zero Waste Europe believes these supporting measures for the generation of energy from waste is inconsistent with EU waste policies and climate agenda.

ZWE’s development and policy coordinator Janek Vahk said, “Financial support for waste-to-energy processes undermine the waste hierarchy and the circular economy policies by encouraging energy generation from waste such as incineration, which is one of the least desirable options of the waste hierarchy in detriment of prevention and recycling.”

He added that a majority of waste-to-energy processes such as incineration, pyrolosis or gasification are contributing to rather than mitigating climate change as a large proportion of the caloric value from these processes comes from the treatment of fossil-fuel based materials such as plastics. Also monitoring the amount of organic waste compared to the fossil-fuel based waste in the mixed waste is both logistically and technologically difficult.

Janek Vahk said: “The proportion of organic content in the mixed waste is often assumed to be 50% though this percentage is neither constant nor reliable. This supports the evidence that much of the so-called renewable energy from waste-to-energy comes in fact from treatment of fossil carbon based materials.”
Zero Waste Europe urges the members of ITRE and ENVI Committee to align the Commission’s proposal on RED II with the circular economy policies by explicitly excluding primes of subsidies for waste-to-energy from the mixed municipal solid waste.