Waste-to-energy under the Circular Economy

EESC opinion: Waste-to-energy under the Circular Economy

Key points:

The EESC supports the adherence to the waste hierarchy when making decisions on waste management, including waste-to-energy options.

The EESC espouses the principle of sustainability-proofing of EU public money in the light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that any public funding should be improving the well-being of the citizens of Europe. Public funding should also adhere to the principle of not supporting any activity that causes harm to citizens.

Shortcomings from existing directives on waste treatment must be closed in any future legislation in order to ensure that the transition to a circular economic model is fair, consistent and systemic.

It is important not to create infrastructural barriers to the achievement of higher recycling rates by investments in outdated waste-to-energy processes.

Member States with a large number of incinerators at the moment represent an inconsistency with the ambition of higher recycling targets proposed by the Circular Economy Action Plan. The challenge is to transition these Member States out of incineration dependency and into a diverse range of waste management solutions, through push and pull policy factors including:

  • introducing taxes;
  • phasing out support schemes;
  • a moratorium on new facilities and decommissioning older ones.

The transition to a circular economy has been hindered in the EU by a lack of the right price signals. This is accentuated by continued unjustifiable subsidies for the unsustainable production systems, specifically for the fossil fuel sector. The EESC welcomes the explicitly stated link between access to Cohesion Policy funds and both national waste management plans and the European Circular Economy Action Plan. The link to the European Fund for Strategic Investment could be stronger.

Biogas offers opportunities on many fronts at an EU level, in job creation, emission reduction, enhancing fuel security and more. The legislative and policy framework which best supports the optimisation of the associated opportunities should be developed using the best practice examples from around Member States and beyond.

Behavioural change and cultural change are required and can be achieved through education at all levels of society.