Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Climate and energy transition

Circular economy - 12.07.2017

Waste-to-energy: the Commission should shift its focus
Waste-to-energy is a process in which waste is transformed into – you guessed it – energy. Most of the time, waste is transformed into electricity or heat through combustion, via local waste treatment facilities.

In January 2017, the European Commission published a Communication on the role of waste-to-energy in a circular economy. Through this Communication, the Commission aims to provide guidance to Member States to optimise their environmental approach. However, in CEMR’s view, the Commission is mistaken on certain crucial aspects, and should shift its focus.

How so? The Commission does not sufficiently recognise the role of the energy recovery sector, which converts waste into energy. Its role is particularly important in recovering energy from residual waste that is too polluted for quality recycling. For local governments, energy recovery is a necessary addition to recycling and reuse. This is especially true for those which have invested in high-quality waste treatment facilities that allow optimal energy recovery.

That being said, we energetically agree with the Commission when it stresses the importance of focusing on a long-term perspective and on being consistent with the hierarchy of waste (reduce > reuse > recycle) when investing in new waste management capacities.

However, we would like to stress even more how waste-to-energy is significantly helpful on three aspects: one, to deal with undesired and non-recyclable waste. Two, to strengthen local energy independence and efficiency in the EU. And three, to lead a resource-efficient transition towards a circular economy.

For more information on this issue, no need to waste your energy: simply read Municipal Waste Europe and other key stakeholders’ response to the Commission. CEMR endorses this response.
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