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International Energy Recovery Activities

The incineration of waste for energy recovery is an essential part of the waste management strategies of many countries. There are more than 600 MSW combustion facilities throughout the world that combust about 130 million tons of MSW each year1. MSW combustion is more prevalent in countries such as Japan, Sweden, Denmark, France and Switzerland, where landfill space is limited.

The European Union Landfill Directive of 1999

In an effort to shift away from landfilling of wastes, recognizing the value in materials that go to landfills, the European Union (EU) passed the Landfill Directive in 1999 Exit EPA. This Directive was instituted to set stringent technical and operational requirements for waste, preventing or reducing negative environmental effects from landfilling of waste during the life cycle of a landfill. The Directive mandates that:

The following graph shows the diversion of waste from landfills in the EU (2006 data).

graph depicting diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill - a 2006 snapshot

Examples of what countries have done to meet this directive:

  1. The following countries have instituted landfill bans:
    1. 1997 Denmark
    2. 2000 Switzerland
    3. 2000 Austria
    4. 2002 Sweden
    5. 2005 Germany

  2. The UK established the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) Exit EPA in April of 2005. LATS is trading scheme that allows landfills in England to buy extra allowances granting them the ability to dispose of extra biodegradable municipal waste if the targets of the EU Landfill Directive of 1999 are not met. The scheme functions as a cap and trade system for biodegradable municipal waste in England.

  3. Institution of a landfill tax in the Netherlands.

The most successful members of the EU that have significantly reduced dependence on landfilling have done this by combining recycling, biological treatment (e.g. composting and anaerobic digestion), and combustion with energy recovery. The most recent MSW combustion plants constructed in Europe are located within urban centers in order to minimize the transport distance of wastes, and to also utilize the low pressure steam exhaust of the turbine generators to heat water for district heating.

Despite this Landfill Directive, (19 pp, 115K, about PDF) 44 percent of MSW is still landfilled in Europe2.

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European Union Renewable Energy Sources (RES) Electricity Directive of 2001

In 2001, the EU passed the Renewable Energy Sources Electricity Directive (PDF) (28 pp, 147K, about PDF) Exit EPA, requiring member states to incorporate a certain percentage of renewable sources for energy production. The key targets under the directive are:

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International Recovery Resources

The Waste-to-Energy Research and Technology Council Exit EPA has information on the location of energy recovery facilities worldwide.

MSW Combustion Facilities in Europe

For more information on MSW combustion facilities in Europe and a detailed map please visit the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants Exit EPA website. It is important to note, however, that not all EU WTE facilities are members of CEWEP.

MSW Combustion Facilities in Canada

For more information on MSW combustion facilities in Canada, please visit the Canadian Energy from Waste Coalition Exit EPA

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1 This data reported in article by Nickolas J. Themelis in Waste Management World, 2003-2004 Review Issue, July-August 2003, pp. 40-77
2 EuroHeat&Power English Edition, Volume 4, 1/2007, p. 22

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