ZWE and Reloop publish a guidance on how to legislate mixed waste sorting in the context of the Renewable Energy Directive


02 Mar 2023


Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) and Reloop have released today these guidelines for legislating Mixed Waste Sorting (MWS) in the context of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

The guidelines were developed to clarify the amendment proposed by the European Parliament regarding the use of mixed wastes for ‘renewable energy’ purposes (1).

The document recommends applying MWS systems of defined quality to remove fossil-derived materials to ensure that only biogenic waste is used for renewable energy generation. Following the requirement, the operators would either need to pre-sort the waste on-site or demonstrate that all waste received has undergone sorting prior to it being delivered for incineration.

Janek Vähk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme coordinator at ZWE, stated: “Currently, at incineration plants, the ‘biodegradable fraction of mixed waste’ is never combusted without large quantities of (often recyclable) fossil-derived materials being present. Therefore, to ensure that the RED supports schemes that don’t allow the burning of fossil materials such as plastics, mixed waste sorting should be made mandatory for operators that want to sell their energy as renewable”.

Clarissa Morawski, CEO of Reloop, stated: “The criteria proposed doesn’t create a new obligation as it’s already in the definition of renewable energy to use only the biogenic fractions of wastes and not fossils”.

The guide also recommends setting the following minimum performance criteria for MSW

● For plastics > 70%, with non-target materials contributing no more than 10%
● For steel >80%, with non-target materials contributing no more than 4%
● For aluminium >60%, with non-target materials contributing no more than 6%

A recent report by Eunomia Research and Consulting found that MWS would be necessary (in addition to improving separate collection and design for recycling) to ensure that existing plastic packaging and municipal waste recycling targets are met and to ensure progress towards the EU’s wider carbon emissions reduction goals.

ZWE and Reloop call on the European Council and Parliament to improve  the criteria for mixed wastes to ensure this would only qualify as a source of renewable energy if it has undergone sorting of defined quality. 



Notes to Editors

  1. The European Parliament adopted an amendment to Article 29, paragraph 1, subparagraph 2 of the Renewable Energy Directive

“In the case of mixed wastes, however, the operators are required to apply mixed waste sorting systems of defined quality aimed at removing fossils materials”.

How I can learn more
Zero Waste Europe and Reloop invite you to join the conference Mixed Waste Sorting: The next frontier for managing residual waste for maximum circularity ​aiming to bring together regional and national governments, MWS operators, recyclers, experts, and technology providers from countries across Europe to offer their expertise on the introduction of MSW as an additional tool for the recovery and re-circulation of Europe’s valuable resources. The conference will take place on​ 21 March, 2023 in Brussels from 9 AM to 3:50 PM. Please register here