Policy Paper Finds Landfill Bans Hold Back Circular Economy : ZWE: Waste to Energy Tax Should be Equal to Landfill

Zero Waste Europe waste to energy landfill bans
© Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste Europe has published a policy paper warning against the use of landfill bans. Instead the organisation called for the use of more effective instruments to reduce residual waste and advance towards a circular economy.

According to ZWE most of the districts with landfill bans have seen an overcapacity of waste to energy plants, discouraging them to take further efforts on waste prevention, reuse or recycling.

“Unless all treatment options which “break the loop” are considered, the consequence of banning or phasing out one of them will result in a transfer of waste to another,” asserted Joan-Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe’s executive director. “This will create unnecessary tensions which in no way help to move towards a circular economy.”

The policy paper analyses how in all seven European countries where a landfill ban has been implemented it resulted into more waste being diverted towards incineration than towards recycling.

This was said to be the case in the Netherlands and Germany, where waste to energy tripled and almost doubled respectively, compared to the increase of recycling. Austria and Norway were also cited seeing decreased recycling, while in Denmark, the ban on landfill was claimed to have led to a boost in incineration accompanied by a 37.5% rise in waste generation.

According to Zero Waste Europe landfill bans are a way to “bury” waste under other statistics without necessarily improving performance.

In this regard, ZWE criticised some European countries like Germany and Sweden which is said claim to have a zero waste to landfill policy, but actually landfill the rejects of mechanic-biological treatment plants and ashes from waste to energy plants.

The paper also highlighted that a zero waste to landfill policy is “blind” to waste reuse and reduction, for countries could continue to run a linear economy, increasing waste generation as long as waste is burned or recycled.

The authors compared two different cases, that of Copenhagen, where a zero waste to landfill policy is in place, and that of Treviso province, which they said had a “real zero waste strategy”.

According to the paper the residual waste in Copenhagen is almost six times that of Treviso, where they don’t have a landfill ban but a zero waste policy to all types of disposal.

In order to advance towards a Circular Economy, Zero Waste Europe recommended the implementation of equally high taxes on landfill and waste to energy combined with a lower tax on the landfilling of stabilised waste. The organisation claimed that this would prove to be more effective in diverting waste towards prevention, preparation for re-use and recycling than a landfill ban.

To download the Policy Paper, click here.

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