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CEWEP calls for early ban on waste landfilling

Europe – In its response to the European Commission’s proposal on the circular economy, the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) has embraced the ambition to phase out landfilling of recyclable and recoverable waste while at the same time urging decision-makers to promote quality recycling.

According to CEWEP, waste-to-energy is complementary to quality recycling, helping to achieve a clean circular economy. If waste is too polluted for quality recycling, it should be used to generate local, affordable and secure energy in waste-to-energy plants, the organisation says.

While endorsing the Commission’s proposal to phase out landfilling of recyclable and recoverable waste, CEWEP adds: ‘We would have preferred a more ambitious deadline: by 2020 rather than 2025. This delay is a lost opportunity for improving resource use, considering that more than 80 million tonnes of municipal waste is still landfilled in the EU-28 each year.

A ban on landfilling will provide the legal certainty required for future planning and investments in the necessary recycling and energy recovery infrastructure – unleashing the full potential of waste as a resource. This will increase material recycling rates and energy generation from the remaining waste.’

Rather than a focus simply on quantity, CEWEP hopes quality recycling will receive greater attention in the on-going revision. ‘Quality recycling is key in order to enable industry and consumers to have greater confidence in recycled materials, and to actually use them,’ it states. ‘To develop quality recycling, we need: accurate measurement, better data and transparency about what goes in and what goes out of recycling plants. Greater transparency is also necessary in order to avoid that the EU’s recycling targets are achieved simply by shipping the waste to countries with poorer environmental and social standards than those in Europe.’

CEWEP also stresses that waste-to-energy plants act as a driver for quality recycling by treating polluted and complex waste, keeping harmful substances out of the circular economy. Sometimes materials are bonded and can be extracted only by means of thermal treatment, it points out. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals can be extracted from the bottom ash of waste-to-energy plants and recycled into new products such as aluminium castings for the automotive industry.

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