The report shows that treating combustible waste in Waste-to-Energy plants (WTE) is an efficient alternative for replacing landfilling and thereby contribute to reaching the Member States’ environmental goals, e.g. the goals for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy.
Landfilling is still the most widely used method for managing and treating Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Europe. It is a great challenge to find alternatives to landfilling in Europe, especially in the countries where the development towards integrated and sustainable waste management just has started. Increased trade with combustible waste to countries with capacity for energy recovery, together with other efforts, could make a significant contribution to the environmental goals during an interim period.
This report presents a study where the potential benefits from importing waste from “landfilling countries” to “energy recovery countries” are analyzed. The “landfilling countries” selected in the study are those countries in Eastern Europe that landfilled 75 % or more of their MSW in 2009. These countries are lagging behind in their development of integrated waste management systems and currently have relatively low ability to pay for alternatives with higher environmental performance than landfilling.
Six “energy recovery countries” where selected in the study. These countries have come far in their development towards sustainable waste management having high material recovery rates, using biological treatment such as composting and biogas production to a large extent and using high efficient waste-to-energy plants. Less than 5% of their MSW is presently sent to landfills. Also important, these countries have capacity for importing combustible waste. In total, this import capacity is growing according to planned new WTE-plants.
It is presented how much waste that can be imported from “landfilling countries” to these “energy recovery countries” according to their present and future capacities, including assumptions on how much of this capacity will be needed for domestic waste. The report also shows how large reductions of GHG emissions that can be achieved by this import and also what it costs. Finally, the report presents how this import could contribute to reach common environmental goals within the European Union.
It should be noted that WTE is efficient for a large part of the waste but not for all. A conclusion that can be drawn from recent years environmental studies and also the waste hierarchy adopted by EU, is that waste prevention, reuse and material recovery are options that are even more efficient from an environmental point of view, although sometimes more costly. Biogas production from the biodegradable part of the waste is an option that also can be more efficient than WTE, at least for reducing GHG emissions.
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