ZWE regrets the European Commission’s decision of not including municipal incinerators in the EU ETS revision


14 Jul 2021


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEBrussels,  14 July 2021

Today, the European Commission (EC) released its proposal for the reform of EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) leaving municipal waste to energy incinerators out of the scope.

Zero Waste Europe regrets this decision that leaves a large number of highly polluting plants (500+) with no obligation to address their adverse climate change impact.

Municipal incinerators release large amounts of CO2 – over 52 million tonnes just in 2018. The emissions have increased by 288% between 1990-2017 , the equivalent of those coming from 13.4 coal-fired power plants (EEA, 2019).

Janek Vӓhk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Coordinator at Zero Waste Europe, said:

“The emissions from municipal incinerators have been growing uncontrollably. The EC decision is a lost opportunity to subject the high CO2 intensive industry to the ‘polluter pays’ principle to help encourage other more sustainable and low-carbon treatment options”.

Since municipal incinerators are not part of the ETS, fthe CO2 released by municipal incinerators will result in an unpaid cost to society of around €1,3 billion per year.

A new global report published by Tomra concluded that sorting materials from residual waste  could save 0,73 billion tonnes of CO2 globally.

The exclusion of municipal incinerators is also undermining the decarbonisation efforts of Member States. The electricity produced by municipal incinerators is more carbon-intensive than electricity generated through the conventional use of fossil fuels such as gas; and, most importantly, it is twice the carbon intensity of the EU marginal electricity grid average.

“While the electricity grid should be decarbonising as a result of more renewable energy sources coming online, electricity produced at the incinerator is becoming a major climate issue undermining the further development of renewable energies in EU Member States”, continued Janek Vӓhk.

The experiences in countries that have applied a CO2 tax on incinerators show that this increases motivation for recycling options for those materials. Involving municipal incinerators in the ETS revision would also benefit renewable energy producers that currently have to unfairly compete with dirty energy from incinerators.

Since this is only the first step in the process of the revision of EU ETS, Zero Waste Europe calls on the European Parliament and the Council of the EC to amend this proposal and include municipal waste incinerators to make them pay for their emissions.


Press Contacts

Janek Vähk, Climate, Energy, and Air Pollution Coordinator at Zero Waste Europe

[email protected]

Berta Corredor, Press Officer at Zero Waste Europe

[email protected]  | +32 471965593