Interview with experts
The most successful cities in Europe at municipal waste management according the Green City Index will have their representation at the 2nd Annual Solid Waste Management Forum to be held on 22-24 May 2012 in Amsterdam – No.1 city from the list.
On the occasion of the second edition of the forum, Fleming Europe has invited experts from awarded areas to speak at the event and thus share their experience in waste management. Three of the presenting speakers performing in cities which ranked high in the index – Amsterdam (No.1), Brussels (No.10) and Copenhagen (No.7) took part in a pre-conference interview.
Industry challenges were outlined by Jaap Pranger, COO of AEB Amsterdam‘s Waste and Energy Company, Ella Stengler, MD to Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants and Mette Skovgaard representing Environmental Department of City of Copenhagen & Charlotta Broman, Deputy Director, Division for Eco-Management and Chemicals, Ministry of the Environment.
1. What are the barriers of and drivers behind EU waste management policies?
Barriers are sometimes the lack of national priorities and existing commercial interests. We must not forget that EU countries come from a different starting position. Motives are obvious durability, but also shortage of raw materials and respect for future generations.
EU 27 still relies heavily on landfilling (ca. 100 million tonnes of municipal waste is still landfilled). Waste should be diverted to Recycling and Waste-to-Energy. The European landfill directive was a good start to divert waste from landfills, but it must be implemented properly in all Member States. A more ambitious waste policy could save 78 Mt CO2-e additionally (compared to 2008:10 48 Mt CO2-e). Also the energy recovery status of efficient Waste-to-Energy plants (thus higher up the waste hierarchy than landfilling) is – together with Recycling – instrumental to achieve better waste management.
Charlotta Broman: Proactive sustainable waste management policies are necessary to utilize waste as a resource. The Waste framework directive stimulates development in the right direction, based on the agreed waste hierarchy. Sweden and the EU have considerable experience in implementing measures to stimulate recycling. However, much remains to be done in relation to hazardous substances.
Sweden has a waste strategy that focuses on waste as both a resource and an environmental problem. In order to facilitate environmentally sound waste management, it is necessary to regard it as “an infrastructure” that needs to be integrated into other processes in order to create sustainable cities. A sustainable treatment of waste can only take place after well-organised collection.
In order to use the waste as a resource it is necessary to look at the properties of the waste. Recycling and recovery should be used to stimulate resource efficient and toxic-free material cycles. Waste containing hazardous substances should preferably be phased out of the material cycle and be treated in an environmentally sound way. The flow of materials is also a flow in chemicals and lack of information on chemicals in products is an obstacle to achieving resource efficiency through recycling and as a contribution to a greener economy.
The setting of ambitious targets for specific waste streams is important. I think that the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (possibly driven by the earlier German regulation on packaging) and later the Landfill Directive have contributed to an important move towards increased recycling. Then it is up to the individual Member State to implement the EU regulation.
2. What can you learn from the success of the cities with the lowest incineration and highest material recovery?
I realize that a continuous ambition must be translated into concrete objectives and actual implementation of projects. Best practices of other challenges to follow.
You can learn the most from regions with both high material and energy (incineration) recovery. They have the lowest dependence on landfills and residues from recycling can be treated in Waste-to-Energy plants.
3. According to your experiences, what are the best practices of how not to waste waste?
When you incinerate use a high efficient technology (over 30% electric efficiency!). If you see possibilities, talk to the collector to improve methods, such as better for pre- or post-separation. And finally: be ambitious in the reuse of residues.
Not to dump waste on landfills. High quality recycling as much as suitable. The remaining waste should be turned into energy in efficient Waste-to-Energy plants, thus contributing to climate protection and security of energy supply. This provides local, cost-effective and reliable energy from citizens’ waste generated in decentralized Waste-to-Energy Plants. At the same time it reduces Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels imported expensively from somewhere else in the world.
In my opinion incentives, and particularly economic incentives, is a good example of best practices of how not to waste waste. However, economic incentives at the EU level may not work quite as intended due to economic differences across EU Member States. Focus is often on municipal waste although commercial and industrial waste constitutes a far larger amount of waste. Thus, if the right economic incentives are in place, enterprises will also see a benefit in recycling more waste.
For the best result, a mixture of different measures is necessary to stimulate a sustainable waste management. Information on why and how to participate, clear responsibilities for the different actors, a well-organised collection system which is easy to participate in, and feedback on the results. The message that waste can be a resource and that we shouldn´t spoil it.
4. What do you think will be considered waste in 2020?
Even in 2020 there will be waste. But: Western-European countries helped other countries to increase the % of reuse and recycling. All the materials with a positive value will be reused. Residual waste is greatly reduced.
In order to regard waste as a resource, innovation will be necessary to ensure that waste streams can be sorted, cleaned and prepared for (upcycling/)recycling at a competitive cost. This will need financing means and existence of markets for recycled materials.
Pranger, Stengler and Skovgaard are a part of a comprehensive speaker panel of the 2nd Annual Solid Waste Management Forum – an interactive event with a special feature for the first 30 registered delegates – unique guided tour of Amsterdam’s WtE plant, the world’s highest energy efficiency for a waste-powered facility reaching over 30%, operated by AEB, Amsterdam’s Waste and Energy Company. Interested experts can register until the end of April 2012.