30 November 2017
Waste incineration can help reduce landfilling but it is only an intermediary step towards the circular economy

Waste incineration can help reduce landfilling but it is only an intermediary step towards the circular economy

Plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions

The CoR plenary adopted today the draft opinion on the Role of waste-to-energy (the process of generating energy in the form of electricity or heat through burning waste) in the circular economy by Hungarian PES member Kata Tűttö, Councillor of Budapest's District 12.

​"Europeans produce a lot of waste, around half of ton a year per citizen. Even if the mentality of people is slowly changing, only 40 % of it is reused or recycled on average and, in some countries, more than 80% still goes to landfill. We need to be more ambitious. With modern waste-to-energy treatments, municipal waste can easily be transformed into electricity, heat or biogas”, she stressed. 

The CoR rapporteur supports the European Commission's commitment to the "waste hierarchy" which gives priority to reducing the overall amount of waste through prevention, reuse or recycling and leaves waste-to-energy (which often also involves transporting waste around Europe to burn it in other Member States) only as a last resort measure.  

​​Kata Tűttö also highlights the need for a long-term planning based on the best available data, as well as for the close involvement of local and regional authorities who often have waste management competences. "The European Commission and the Member States need to make sure that local and regional authorities are included in the drawing up of any strategy and in the adoption of technical and financial measures. They also have to ensure that local communities and affordable public services are the first to benefit from the revenue generated by waste", she pointed out. 

Likewise, cities and regions can play an important role in developing education and training measures to improve the knowledge of citizens and of economic operators about waste reduction and strengthen their responsibility towards the environment. The PES ENVE coordinator, André van de Nadort, who presented the opinion on behalf of Kata Tüttö, underlined that: "Educating citizens about waste prevention also has important knock-on effects on their general attitude towards the use of resources and other environmental issues."

Last but not least, the rapporteur also makes a strong case for addressing energy poverty, which is often the main reason for private households to resort to burning waste for heating with dangerous health and environmental impact. It is therefore necessary to increase efforts to combat energy poverty at different levels, including through the cleanest possible waste-to-energy technologies in those member states which are not yet ready to go for the fully circular approach.