European Commission plans on Waste to Energy

We have shamelessly copied the following message from a Quaker round-robin.

It’s an opportunity to help influence the EU’s future strategy on waste treatment, in particular to object to proposals which contradict the EU’s own climate commitments by promoting a polluting and inefficient form of energy.

Responses to the proposals are required by the end of March 2016.

The European Commission has published its plans on waste-to-energy: burning waste to create small amounts of energy and wasting valuable materials.

Despite circular economy principles emphasising the need to use our resources in a more efficient way, incineration, the second-worst form of waste treatment (only better than landfilling) is still being promoted by the EU. If you are concerned about this issue, take action to by giving your reaction here:

[Search for “Waste to Energy” in the Name box, and the document “Waste to Energy Communication” will appear. Click on “Open” on the far right under the heading “Give your feedback”]

Below are a few suggested points for you to use in your reaction. Please try not copy and paste these exactly, as the Commission may disregard identical (or very similar) responses. The deadline for giving your feedback is the end of March.

The EU’s roadmap:

  • classifies incineration with energy recovery as renewable energy,
  • suggests that waste-to-energy is the best treatment for non-recyclable waste, and,
  • contradicts the EU’s climate commitments by promoting a polluting and inefficient form of energy.

Take action today by responding to the roadmap.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Let’s work together to build a more sustainable Europe!

George Thurley
Project Officer (Sustainability)
Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA)
Quaker House, Square Ambiorix 50, 1000 Brussels
Twitter: @QCEA Web: |
Telephone: +32 2 234 30 62

Energy from Waste response bullet points

Please do not copy and paste these exactly, as the Commission may disregard identical (or very similar) responses.

  • The contribution of waste-to-energy to Europe’s energy creation is limited – if we burnt all the municipal waste we are not required to recycle it would only provide 2% of our energy demand by 2020.
  • Europe should be trying to reduce our waste generation, not relying on it to provide energy. Burning waste produces more Carbon dioxide per megwatt-hour of energy than any fossil fuel.
  • “Non-recyclable waste” and materials should be eliminated at design stage, not burnt – promoting waste-to-energy addresses one symptom of our poor waste management systems, rather than addressing the root cause.
  • Building incineration plants encourages waste creation to feed these plants, and requires huge investment.
  • The targets set in the new circular economy package would mean that by 2030 only 25-35% of Europe’s waste should be incinerated – it is not worth investing in incineration plants for this amount.
  • Many member states already have too many incinerators with not enough waste to burn. The EU should require Member states not to allow new incineration plants.
  • The waste hierarchy is not a ladder: it is possible for countries dependent on landfill to skip incineration altogether by focussing on recycling and reuse.
  • In a true circular economy, any burning of waste is a failure.
  • The European Commission should impose a moratorium on the construction of new Waste-to-energy plants until it has performed an analysis on the current capacity of incineration plants.
  • The Commission must then develop plans on how to reduce existing over-capacities of incineration, rather than encourage their use for long-term facilities like district heating.
  • This roadmap ignores the role of civil society, and local governments, by not mentioning them in the list of stakeholders, despite the considerable health and environmental concerns.
  • Burning waste is not renewable energy (although we can continue making waste, we should not – waste is not comparable to the sun or wind!)
  • In fact, burning waste is one of the most polluting and inefficient forms of energy in existence.
  • Waste avoidance and recycling can save more energy – the energy embedded in products and materials – than burning waste could produce, and without any extra greenhouse gases being emitted.
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