Waste incineration of biogenic waste (biowaste, paper, etc.) can only be supported if separate collection obligations are fully met
The European Parliament voted its final position on the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III). Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) supports the decisions taken to help accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Europe, however, regrets that an amendment to exclude hybrid sources such as mixed municipal waste totally from the scope was rejected.
Mixed waste sorting & support schemes
The European Parliament has strengthened the sustainability criteria regarding the use of mixed wastes for ‘renewable energy’ production. It now requires that in case the mixed wastes are used for ‘renewable energy’, the operators must sort the waste to remove fossil materials (for recycling). Moreover, waste incineration of biogenic waste (biowaste, paper, etc.) can only be supported if separate collection obligations are fully met.
Janek Vähk, ZWE’s Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme Coordinator: “The Renewable Energy Directive should not allow providing perverse incentives for the combustion of the ‘biodegradable fraction of mixed waste waste’, as in case of incineration plants, it is never combusted without there also being fossil-derived materials present. Therefore, the requirement for mixed waste sorting will ensure that mixed waste cannot be directly incinerated for ‘renewable energy”. A recent report shows that introducing mandatory sorting on all municipal “residual” (mixed) waste streams would result in an increase of the effective plastic packaging collection rate to above 90%, enabling EU Member States to achieve their recycling targets. However, with the incineration of mixed waste, large quantities of plastic that should and could be reused or recycled are still lost
Janek Vähk, “The current energy crisis has highlighted the importance of reducing the demand for fossil fuels. The reuse or recycling of plastic waste will help us to decouple from fossil fuels, as over 20% of fossil gas consumption in the EU is used to make plastics. Moreover, 50% of European naphtha (one of the precursors for making plastics) is supplied by Russia”.
Recycled Carbon Fuel - RCF
The agreed text also improves the European Commission’s wording to limit the potential use of fossil waste-derived ‘recycled carbon fuels’ - such as plastic-to-fuels. Indeed, the new wording proposed by the Parliament regarding the methodology removes the concept of ‘avoided emissions’, which would have allowed manufacturers to artificially discount emissions from ‘avoided’ alternative emissions, i.e. waste incineration. This accounting practice (avoided emissions) improves only theoretically the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from this type of fuels, thus could have made it possible for recycled carbon fuel to meet the required at least 70% GHG saving threshold required for transportation to contribute toward the renewable targets. A recent study on plastic-to-fuels shows that plastic-derived fuels produce high exhaust emissions compared to diesel (1).
Lauriane Veillard, ZWE’s Chemical Recycling and Plastic-to-Fuels Policy Officer: “The removal of the concept of ‘avoided’ emissions underlines the true overall GHG emissions of recycled carbon fuels. This is a first step in the right direction to showcase the truth about false green solutions.”
"We are positive of how stricter rules that make plastics to fuels ineligible for the so-called low-carbon transport fuels has been ensured", Veillard added
Zero Waste Europe calls upon the European Parliament to maintain its position on the mixed waste and recycled carbon fuels during the upcoming trilogues with the Council.