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Incineration overcapacity ‘threatens’ recycling | New study adds to warning of incineration overcapacity | Resource magazine

Incineration overcapacity ‘threatens’ recycling
21 January 2013 by Annie Reece

A new study commissioned by the Global Alliance for Incinerator
Alternatives (GAIA) has found that incinerators operating in some EU
states have the capacity to burn ‘more than the non-recyclable waste
generated’ and warns that plans to increase incineration capacity pose an
‘environmental and an economic threat’.

The ‘Incineration overcapacity and waste shipping in Europe: the end of
the proximity principle?’ report, released today (21 January) by GAIA, an
international alliance of more than 650 grassroots organisations in over
90 countries, found that Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and
the United Kingdom already have more incineration capacity than waste to
burn and ‘as a result, shipments of waste for burning has increased
across national borders’. According to the group, this ‘contradicts the
proximity principle’ of the Waste Framework Directive and causes
‘unnecessary CO2 emissions’.

The report reads: ‘the construction of new incineration plants in
countries that already have a high share of waste incineration. can have
a negative effect on the achievement of high recycling rates.

‘This also opens the door to the increase of waste shipping within the
EU, which contradicts the principle of proximity set out in the WFD.
[and] the fact that waste shipping for incineration with energy recovery
does not need authorisation creates a lack of information and threatens
the recycling goals set by the Waste Framework Directive.’

The report states that 22 per cent of the EU’s waste is burned in the 406
incinerators currently in operation in the EU.

Although Germany, France and Italy have 63 per cent of all EU
incinerators, the highest incineration rates (measured per capita) were
Denmark (365 kilogrammes (kg)), Luxembourg (240 kg) and Sweden (226 kg),
with the latter already having to import waste to ensure that the
incinerators are running at efficient levels.

The report goes on to say that overcapacity has ‘very high potential
impacts’ on recycling markets and on waste treatment prices.

‘On one hand, investments in incineration facilities must be paid off and
this creates a need of waste being sent to incineration, rather than
prevented or recycled. On the other hand, if not enough waste is sent to
incineration to pay off the investments, incineration fees must increase,
which has an effect on waste charges paid by households and commercial

‘Therefore, planning overcapacity when the magnitude of the current and
future waste flows is not certain represents both an environmental and an
economic threat.’

‘Hijack waste prevention and recycling’

Commenting on the report findings, Coordinator of GAIA in Europe Joan
Marc Simon urged the European Commission to introduce tighter controls
over European incineration capacity.

“If the European Commission is to maintain its commitment to limit
incineration to non-recyclables by 2020, the strategy should be to close
incinerators and not to build new ones.

“The objectives of the Resource Efficiency Roadmap and recycling targets
won’t be achieved unless the European Commission tightly controls the
European incineration capacity.”

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