The European Commission’s recently published Strategy on Plastic Waste in the Environment, which launched a consultation on how to reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment, has been welcomed by the waste to energy industry. (See WMW article)
In a statement, the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) gave its answers to all 26 of the questions posed by the green paper, and gave particular credence to moves towards ending the landfilling of plastic waste and ensuring that it is treated higher up the waste hierarchy.
“This will help the EU reach its energy and resource efficiency aims. Sustainable material recycling and energy recovery are complementary means to divert waste from landfills”, commented CEWEP’s managing director, Ella Stengler.
According to the organisation plastic waste which is clean enough and suitable for economically feasible recycling should be recycled into new useful products. Furthermore, quality standards for plastic recycling should be developed, based on environmental and economic criteria.
The remaining plastic waste should be treated in energy efficient waste to energy plants where CEWEP said that its energy content can be put to good use and reduces Europe’s high dependence on expensive imports of fossil fuels.
Addressing the question posed by the green paper of whether plastic wastes sent for energy recovery should be subject to addition taxes, the organisation said that this would be counterproductive and would not help to achieve quality recycling, as there is no competition between quality recycling and energy recovery for waste.
According CEWEP Taxes would only make local energy production more expensive for citizens and industry without providing any additional environmental benefit.
Not infinitely recyclable
In its statement, CEWEP also noted that unlike metals, plastics cannot be recycled indefinitely as material quality decreases with each recycling cycle, mostly because the polymeric chains constituting the plastics become shorter.
“Thus, mechanical recycling extends the useful life of plastic materials, but at some point plastic materials will become too degraded for mechanical recycling. In this case it is better to turn the plastic waste into energy in a waste to energy plant rather than landfilling it,” said the statement.
“There is no technical, environmental and certainly no economic reason to limit energy recovery of plastics wastes that are not suitable for quality recycling,” Concluded.
EU Consultation - Recycling & Energy Recovery Key for Waste Plastics?
The European Commission has launched a consultation on how to reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment.
Recycled Plastics Market Set to Triple, but China’s 'Green Fence' Hampering Exports
The global demand for recovered plastics will triple over the next eight years, but China’s ‘Green Fence’ policy of import restrictions of scrap plastics is leading to oversupply in the U.S. market.
Textile Recyclers Fighting for Survival in Face of Crime & Prices
High market prices, unfair competition and criminal activity are squeezing margins driving textile recyclers out of business in many parts of the world.