Page 52 - European Energy Innovation - Spring 2017 publication
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52  Spring 2017 European Energy Innovation


The future of Waste-to-Energy

By Patrick Clerens and Natalia Walczak, ESWET

                                                                                     legislation with ambitious recycling
                                                                                     targets – by 2030 65% of municipal
                                                                                     waste should be effectively recycled,
                                                                                     not only send to recycling. It is
                                                                                     important to note that part of the
                                                                                     material sent to recycling plants is not
                                                                                     recyclable and sometimes as much as
                                                                                     10% is rejected and has to be landfilled
                                                                                     or incinerated.

Year 2016 was an important                due to technological reasons or            Taking into account that landfill should
              time for the Waste-to-      contamination. As a result, it helps to    be phased out, it is very likely that the
              Energy sector. Works on     phase out landfilling.                     overall volume of waste to be treated
              the EU Circular Economy                                                thermally could even increase, as also
Package and the Communication on          In addition, as a reliable source of       stated in a study by the Joint Research
Waste-to-Energy were a good time          electricity and heat it contributes        Centre of the European Commission:
to reflect on the role and the future     to the energy market and increases         “‘(…)despite the existing potential
of this technology in Europe. Being       security of supply by replacing fossil     for waste prevention and reduced
part of both waste management and         fuels. It also contributes to resource     generation of these streams through
energy generation, how can it further     efficiency – Waste-to-Energy plants        better and more widespread source-
improve its contribution to these areas?  recover metals that would be otherwise     separated collection, energy recovery
And asking even a more fundamental        lost, and the bottom ash that remains      is likely to increase to support the
question: is there any need for Waste-    after the incineration can be used as an   necessary massive diversion from
to-Energy in the future at all?           aggregate for construction.                landfill. Moreover, higher recycling
                                                                                     rates for other waste types may lead
BENEFITS OF WASTE-TO-ENERGY               HOW MUCH WASTE WILL WE HAVE?               to a further increase in the generation
Prevention of waste generation,           According to Eurostat statistics, in 2014  of sorting residues, unless the quality
reuse and recycling of materials is       each EU citizen generated on average       of the materials collected separately at
rightly promoted as the core of waste     475 kg of waste. Out of this amount,       source improves.’”.
management in the EU. But what            28% was recycled and another 28%
to do with the waste that makes no        landfilled, 27% incinerated and 16%        Assuming that the ambitious recycling
sense to be recycled? Should this be      composted.                                 targets are met in 2030, it will be still
landfilled? No! Waste-to-Energy is a                                                 necessary to deal with 30-35% of
complementary solution that deals         The European Commission proposed           municipal waste. And the commercial
with waste unsuitable for recycling       in December 2015 revised waste             and industrial waste that needs to be
                                                                                     treated is not even included in these

                                                                                     WILL WASTE STREAMS CHANGE?
                                                                                     Waste-to-Energy plants are designed
                                                                                     to operate with various waste input.
                                                                                     As any fuel, also waste has its calorific
                                                                                     value that differ depending on the type.
                                                                                     Unsorted municipal waste, with a lot of
                                                                                     wet matter (mainly biomass), has lower

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