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Waste-to-Energy is incompatible with climate mitigation: the EU takes a stand

Zero Waste Europe welcomes the exclusion of Waste-to-Energy in the technical report on ‘EU Taxonomy’ for sustainable activities – alongside coal and nuclear. This is the first expert advice which recognises the damaging impacts of incineration: noting lock-in, environmental impacts and harm. A huge precedent for future EU climate action, and sustainable investments. 


The Technical Expert Group (TEG), tasked with creating the EU Taxonomy to introduce classification systems for environmentally sustainable economic activities looked specifically at climate change mitigation, in accordance with the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals, which guide European legislation on climate. 


The TEG’s findings highlighted that a large portion of Europe’s currently incinerated waste could be recycled, and that the reliance of some individual Member States on the incineration of municipal waste, and further increasing capacities, risks overcapacity that could result in dangerous lock-in effects


The Taxonomy, also heavily influenced by the Regulation on Sustainable Finance, also noted that Waste-to-Energy could not be considered as contributing to climate change mitigation as it “causes harm to the environmental objectives of the circular economy” – a powerful force for climate mitigation.


Commenting on the announcement, Janek Vahk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme Coordinator, said: 


It’s time to recognise that Waste-to-Energy incineration is a significant barrier to the circular economy because it burns valuable materials that could be recycled, composted or reused. Burning these resources comes at a high environmental and climate cost, and given the urgent need to mitigate exacerbated climate change, we must phase out incineration as soon as possible to keep us below 1.5 degrees warming.


The ‘EU Taxonomy’ will become the basis for the development of new regulatory frameworks for the financial sector, and this exclusion of Waste-to-Energy is more than welcome. The next few months will be critical for ensuring these principles can be put into action at speed, and applied coherently across EU policy at large. This is a huge opportunity for creating a more sustainable Europe, which should not be wasted.


Zero Waste Europe calls on EU institutions to ensure the full alignment of public policies across different environmental, climate and regional lawmaking to support the phase out of Waste-to-Energy activities. Noting that it is critical to redirect financing towards climate positive waste prevention policies and innovative zero waste business models that take us towards a green new future. 








Policy briefing: The impact of Waste to Energy on Climate

EU Taxonomy Report: Technical Annex 



Janek Vahk, Climate, Energy & Air Pollution Coordinator at Zero Waste Europe | +32 (0) 273 620 91

Eilidh Robb, Communications Officer at Zero Waste Europe  | +32 (0) 273 620 91

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Eilidh Robb

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