EUROCITIES statement on waste-to-energy in a circular economy
Recycling waste has the highest impact in reducing a city’s carbon footprint, but that doesn’t mean that what cannot be recycled should be wasted – it can be used as a source of energy instead.
In the future countries that are very advanced in their transition to a circular economy will have a decreased demand for waste-to-energy, due to prevention and the introduction of new recycling innovations. However, waste-to-energy with heat and energy recovery is still currently an essential element in a sustainable waste management system, if the waste hierarchy is respected and energy is recovered in an environmentally friendly manner.
City authorities require waste to energy for the destruction of residual waste that cannot be recycled. Waste with calorific value, which cannot be recycled should not end up in a landfill, and more technology should be developed to ensure that ashes left over such as zinc, phosphorous can be recycled.
It is very important to find the correct capacity for waste-to-energy-plants, while ensuring that plants creating this energy are embedded into supply grids, providing district heating and electricity. The EU must work in collaboration with city authorities to develop guidelines at EU level for better design of waste systems, while securing that overcapacity and future recycling capacity needs are taken into account.