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Increased material recovery – What role will energy recovery play?

The overall goal of society is to reduce waste volumes and increase material recycling. The vision of Avfall Sverige, “There is no waste” and the goal of a continual movement up the waste hierarchy and a decoupling of waste volumes from economic growth, are clear expressions of this approach.

The question of what role energy recovery (incineration) plays in such a context is interesting. Quite often you hear that energy recovery counteracts increased recycling. In fact, the opposite is the truth.

Avfall Sverige produced this report ”Increased material recovery – What role will energy recovery play?” with the purpose to examine the relationship between energy recovery and recycling.

In summary, we conclude that

• Thanks to energy recovery, the combustible residue that occur in the recycling process is utilized and contribute to enhanced resource management through production of electricity and district heating and replacing other fuels.

• Recyclable waste that ends up in the residual fraction, either due to the design of the collection system or due to citizen’s various reasons for inadequate source separation, can be taken care of as combustible waste.

• Recycled products that no longer can be recovered as materials, since quality is deteriorated so that further recycling is no longer possible, can at least be energy recovered.

• Precious metals, which are not captured in the collection system, can be extracted for recycling from the ash and slag resulting from the combustion process.

• Waste still contains, and will continue to do so for a long time, substances and materials that need to be destroyed or detained in controlled flows and not brought into circulation through continued recycling. This is taken care of in a safe manner in via the combustion process.

• Finally, the energy recovery is necessary to maintain the landfill bans on organic and combustible waste , which has been in force for more than ten years in Sweden. 

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