Including waste-to-energy in EU ETS would be detrimental, says ESWET

The European Suppliers of Waste-to-Energy Technology (ESWET) say including waste-to-energy in the EU Emissions Trading System’s (EU ETS) would ‘run against’ its objective of reducing emissions.

The waste management sector plays a key role in the EU’s ambition to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, said ESWET. Waste-to-energy contributes by treating the fraction of municipal waste unfit for recycling, as part of the Effort Sharing Regulation.

Including waste incineration in the EU ETS would run against its overarching objective of reducing emissions, according to ESWET, which said it is likely to trigger more landfilling of non-recyclable waste and more use of fossil fuels.

The organisation believes reducing waste-to-energy plants’ capacity would increase the amount of non-recyclable waste sent to landfills, negatively impacting the EU’s objectives of 65% recycling and 10% landfilling rates by 2035.

Alternatively, the waste could be transported outside the EU ETS zone, potentially shipped to countries with less stringent environmental standards. In this context, it could be appropriate to consider taxing waste exports based on their environmental harm potential, the organisation said.

In 2018, waste-to-energy facilities supplied electricity to 18 million EU citizens and heat to 15 million EU citizens. At least half of the energy output from waste-to-energy plants is considered renewable. With a reduced amount of the energy recovered by these plants, ESWET believes there would be an increased need for other constant energy sources, resulting in a possible increase in fossil fuel demand.

“We believe that including waste-to-energy in the EU ETS would miss the target as it would not reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the waste management sector,” said Annabelle Schatten, ESWET policy officer.

“Indeed, the sector’s GHG impact is not limited to direct CO2 emissions; it includes other factors, such as methane emissions from landfills, energy savings through recycling, and GHG offset by energy recovery.”

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