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Recycling damaged by emphasis on incineration

Europe – Significant incineration overcapacity in some European countries ‘threatens’ the recommendations set out in the EU’s Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe which advocates a higher priority on prevention, reuse and recycling, according to a recent study commissioned by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

‘Even though waste prevention and waste recycling are at the top of the waste hierarchy, the generation of waste in the EU has grown steadily during the last years, and so has the percentage of waste incinerated,’ points out the report.

It goes on to say that incineration capacity is expanding across Europe, with some EU states already having the capability to burn more than the non-recyclable waste generated. Incineration capacity in Europe is expected to increase by around 13 million tonnes up to the year 2020 as a result of the scheduled construction of 48 new incinerators and of capacity expansions at some existing facilities, adds the report.

Such an emphasis on burning waste ‘may hamper the accomplishment of the recycling targets’, most notably in countries already struggling to achieve them. Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium are mentioned specifically as having high incineration figures, burning 54%, 49%, 39%, 38% and 37% of their waste, respectively.

The 406 incinerators operating in the EU boasted a combined capacity of 54 million tons per year in 2010. Germany, France and Italy accounted for 63% of all incinerators and 64% of all waste incinerated, the report states. Incineration overcapacity is forecast to reach ‘at least 3 million tonnes by 2020’ in Germany alone.

In the UK, an overcapacity of 6.9 million tonnes would arise if facilities already with planning consent were to enter operation.

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