The Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) is speaking out against a report produced by Eunomia on behalf of Zero Waste Europe that claims there is not much difference between landfill and incineration from a climate perspective. With COP21 currently under way in Paris, CEWEP says this a “dangerous message” to send.
According to CEWEP, numerous scientists in the field agree that “waste to energy plants contribute significantly to reducing the climate impacts of modern waste management and appear much more climate friendly than when the waste is disposed of in landfills.” The Zero Waste Europe report does not include critical parameters such as the energy substitution for landfill-produced electricity.
In addition, assumptions used in the report for the waste-to-energy (WtE) performance underestimate its climate benefits. For example, the report considers electricity-only plants, while the vast majority of European WtE plants generate combined heat and power. The report also excludes the benefits of metal recycling from WtE’s bottom ash.
A 2014 study conducted UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, concludes that whenever electricity-only WtE plants have a higher energy efficiency than 11 percent, they always provide a better carbon performance than very efficient landfills.
Furthermore, scientific studies suggest that “diversion from landfill is the main contributor to GHG mitigation in the waste management sector.”
The confederation is concerned that the report’s conclusions could encourage countries to continue landfilling. Landfill diversion is crucially important for the environmental and public health, CEWEP says.
Photo credit: landfill site via Shutterstock