Slide background
Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Press release: Future and financing waste-to-energy

For immediate release: Brussels, Bucharest, Ljubljana, Prague, Sofia, Warsaw, Vilnius, Zagreb, February 4, 2017

The European Commission’s recent communication on the role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy should be a clear signal for the Central and Eastern European authorities that the priority is prevention and recycling, and not waste incineration.

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have been granted 5.4 billion euro by the European Commission from the Cohesion and European Regional Development Fund to improve waste management systems for the period 2014-2020. The partnership agreements between the Commission and governments had been signed before the circular economy package was issued and established new and more progressive priorities for the management of waste by the Member States. However, while the agreements highlight that the financial support under the cohesion policy should be directed first of all to the development of selective waste collection and construction of infrastructure for recycling, they also allocate over 50 per cent of available money for “thermal treatment, incineration”. This caused CEE authorities to consider constructing over 80 waste incinerators (combined capacity over 5.42 million tonnes/a), and approximately 40 mechanical biological treatment facilities (MBT; combined capacity over 3.29 million tonnes/a)[1]. These investments may consume most available funds, and slow down, or maybe even block for years, implementation of a progressive waste reduction and recycling system.

Large scale investments into MBTs, waste incinerators, and other semi-innovative techniques based on unsorted municipal solid waste, have always led to conservation and locking in of systems based on co-mingled waste collection, and low recycling rates. It could be no different in CEE countries where average recycling rates are at 18 per cent and composting at 5 per cent. Slovenia is the only exception, where there has been substantial progress to reach 49 per cent recycling and 12 per cent composting, thanks to the wide implementation of zero waste methodologies.

Most CEE countries still have low or no incineration capacity, which provides a great opportunity to invest into systems that are less costly, and have much less impact on the health of society and the environment. These are systems focused on waste prevention, re-use, separate collection and recycling. The systems must be flexible and ready to accept increasing amounts of recyclables, which will be expected in a future as a result of higher recycling targets set by waste legislation within the Circular Economy package.

This opportunity has been recognized by the European Commission in recent communications:

Public funding should also avoid creating overcapacity for non-recyclable waste treatment such as incinerators. In this respect it should be borne in mind that mixed waste as a feedstock for waste-to-energy processes is expected to fall as a result of separate collection obligations and more ambitious EU recycling targets. For these reasons, Member States are advised to gradually phase-out public support for the recovery of energy from mixed waste[2].

and

[…] funding for new facilities for the treatment of residual waste, such as incineration or mechanical biological treatment, will be granted only in limited and well justified cases, where there is no risk of overcapacity and the objectives of the waste hierarchy are fully respected.[3]

Therefore the undersigned organizations call the Central and Eastern European governments as well as European institutions such as the European Investment Bank[4] and JASPERS to not assist and grant projects for the construction of waste incinerators and MBTs from public funds but instead to support investments into prevention, separate waste collection and recycling: a system which is coherent with circular economy priorities and targets.

 

Press contact:

Bulgaria: Evgenia Tasheva (+359) 879 899 426, e.tasheva@zazemiata.org

Croatia: Marko Košak, (+385) 989 752 335, marko@zelena-akcija.hr

Czech Republic: Ivo Kropáček, (+420) 604 207 302, ivo.kropacek@hnutiduha.cz

Hungary: Urbán Csilla, (+36) 1 386-2648, csilla@humusz.hu, Alexa Botár, (+36) 1 216-7297, alexa@mtvsz.hu

Lithuania: Domantas Tracevičius, (+370) 618 22 667, domantas@circulareconomy.lt

Poland: Paweł Głuszyński, (+48) 501 752 106, pawel@otzo.most.org.pl

Romania: Elena Rastei, +40 734 911 322, elena@zerowasteromania.org

Slovenia: Urša Zgojznik, (+386) 41 793 584, ursa.zgojznik@ocistimo.si

Friends of the Earth Europe: Meadhbh Bolger, (+32) 483 659 497, meadhbh.bolger@foeeurope.org

 

List of signatories:

Arnika – Toxics and Waste Programme

Alliance of Associations Polish Green Network (PZS)

Association New Idea (SNI)

Alter eko Foundation

CEE Bankwatch Network

Circular Economy Lithuania (ZE)

Ecologists Without Borders (EBM)

European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

Friends of the Earth Bulgaria (ZZ)

Friends of the Earth Croatia (ZA)

Friends of the Earth Czech Republic (HD)

Friends of the Earth Europe

Friends of the Earth Hungary

Humusz Waste Prevention Alliance (HSz)

Institute for Sustainable Development (InE)

Polish Biorecycling Association (SnrRB)

The Society for Earth (TNZ)

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste Romania

 

[1] Data gathered by the undersigned NGOs, based on information included in national, regional, and local waste management plans.

[2] The role of waste-to-energy in the circular economy, COM(2017) 34 final.

[3] Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy, COM(2015) 614 final.

[4] http://www.eib.org/projects/pipelines/index?d=2014&f=&st=&r=1&c=&se=2060


Zero Waste progress in Romania

The tireless work of Zero Waste Romania, recently won many victories, here they share some of their achievements. To find our more get in contact via their Facebook page or email them directly. In the coming weeks we will be looking at other stories of zero waste practices in Central & Eastern Europe.

Iasi, the first big municipality in Romania to adopt the zero waste strategy

The city of Iasi has joined the “Zero Waste Municipality” international network and become the biggest city in Romania, with a population of over 350 000 inhabitants, that engaged to adopt the zero waste methodology with proven impact in other over 350 cities across Europe, in facilitating the transition towards circular economy.

The affiliation process started in September 2016, when Mihai Chirica, the mayor of Iasi, signed a formal engagement letter and organized a task force group with all the main actors involved in the waste management at local level from the waste operator, local Police and NGOs to the Ministry of Environment.

Mihai Chirica, Mayor of Iasi

The first solutions which are to be adopted in local legislation are the following:

  • separate collection at source of three types of waste: recyclables, compostable/biowaste and residual waste. The source collection will be programmed on different days for each type of waste category and the biowaste will be composted or converted in biogas;
  • introduction of the  “Pay as you Throw” system;

Funding is also being sought for the extension of the existing Municipal Waste Collection Center with a repair and resale center for furniture, textiles, electronics and construction waste, a pioneering initiative in Romania.

The “zero waste” methodology has been adopted by 40 other small communities and cities including Targu Lapus, the first Romanian city to adopt the strategy in 2014.

PAYT legislation in Romania

In October 2016, Romania included in the waste framework legislation the “Pay as you Throw” instrument to be implemented at national level, whenever it is technically and economically viable following the 2008/98/EC recommended language. Even if not mandatory, this event marks a historical milestone in the battle for an improved waste management system still based mostly on landfilling and opened the door to municipalities to adopt the instrument in local legislation and modify their commercial contract with the waste operator.  The first city in progress to adopt PAYT is Iasi (+350 000 inhabitants), followed by Oradea (+250 000 inhabitants) which will be announced in April 2017.


The beginning of the end for the plastic bag in Tunisia? – Zero Waste Tunisia

An article from Zero Waste Tunisia, part of the developing Zero Waste Mediterranean network. If you part of, or want to join a zero waste group in the Mediterranean contact us to find out more.

The beginning of the end for the plastic bag?

It’s created in just a few seconds, serves a purpose for a only few minutes and takes more than 400 years to completely breakdown. It is, of course the plastic bag that Tunisians particularly adore for their shopping. However despite this disastrous love affair recent developments, including an agreement between the supermarkets and the government could herald the beginning of the end for the single-use plastic bag.

Plastic bags are a real scourge. In fact, they are harmful to the environment and kill thousands of animals each year. They are dumped our countryside and beaches releasing their poison everywhere and ending up in the soil.

Tunisians consume one billion plastic bags each year, of which 30% (approximately 315 million of them) come from the large supermarkets. Those 315 million bags are equal to 10,000 tons of plastic waste according to the ministry.

In an effort to phase plastic bags out, the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment has  recently signed an agreement with the supermarket union chamber. This agreement, which was effective from the 1st of March, prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags.

The alternative is not difficult to find, in fact we could use the traditional Tunisian basket (the Koffa) or other ecological bags.

The minister describes that approach as “gradual” and which in a few months will result in a total ban on the manufacture and sale of plastic bags in Tunisia.

The idea is to encourage the factories to produce, using the same technologies, reusable bags that will be sold for use several times. It is also about changing the behavior of the consumer to control the use of plastic bags and think about alternative solutions.

The ministry has therefore opted for a progressive approach, in several stages instead of a global and radical approach which will not work.

So, will these plastic bags completely be eliminated by the end of the year? Will the environmental police control this issue, especially outside supermarkets? The coming months will provide an answer.

Find out more about the work of Zero Waste Tunisia on their website, and  get involved in & find out more about zero waste activities in the Mediterranean via our contact form


10th anniversary of EU recycling rules marked by green groups

10 February 2017, Brussels

On 13 February 2007, Members of the European Parliament voted in pioneering waste rules that have led to higher recycling rates across Europe. [1] They must now keep momentum and vote for more ambitious recycling targets as well as binding measures to reduce waste generation.

Thanks to the 2007 legislation, recycling rates have steadily grown across the EU:

  • In 2015, 46% of municipal waste generated in the EU was recycled, as opposed to 36% in 2007. [2]
  • The highest increases between 2007 and 2015 came from Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Italy (20–32%). [3]
  • Landfilling rates in the European Union fell from 43% in 2007 to 26% in 2015. [4]

The improvements show that binding recycling targets have a big impact on waste management. However, waste prevention by repair and reuse is also necessary to close the loop of our economy.

Ferran Rosa, Waste Policy Officer at Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), said:

“The Waste Framework Directive was the first step to a more resource-efficient Europe. After 10 years, it is the moment for Member States and the European Parliament to step up the ambition, both in the law and in the implementation

In mid-March, the European Parliament will have a chance to renew its ambition, and vote for long-needed binding targets on waste prevention and higher recycling targets.

NGOs have called for mandatory measures to improve separate collection for all waste streams, including bio-waste, a 70% recycling target for 2030 as well as stronger rules on producer responsibility aimed at driving eco-design.

ENDS

 Action of February 13 2007. Source: Friends of the Earth Europe Action of February 13 2007. Source: Friends of the Earth Europe
Action of February 13 2007. Source: Friends of the Earth Europe

 

Note to Editors

[1] On 13 February 2007, the European Parliament approved the Waste Framework Directive,
introducing a 50% legally-binding target for the recycling of waste and compulsory separate collection for paper, metal, glass and plastic.

·        The European Parliament’s Environment Committee approved the legislative amendments on 24 January 2017.

·        The European Parliament will vote in Plenary between 13th and 16th March 2017 (date to be confirmed).

·        Member States will decide whether to approve the amendments later in 2017.

[2], [3], [4] Eurostat 2017. Latest data on waste management.

Contacts

Piotr Barczak, Waste Policy Officer, European Environmental Bureau: piotr.barczak@eeb.org

Meadhbh Bolger, Resource Justice Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe: meadhbh.bolger@foeeurope.org

Ferran Rosa, Waste Policy Officer, Zero Waste Europe: ferran@zerowasteeurope.eu