Relationship with recycling
Waste minimisation, re-use and recycle are essential to achieve more sustainable waste management. There are, however, technical and commercial reasons why all waste cannot be recycled. There will always be some residual waste. It is important that local authorities and businesses have a way to manage residual waste and recover maximum value.
There is a view that EfW is competing with recycling. Experience across Europe shows that best practice can involve high levels of recycling combined with EfW for the remaining waste that cannot be reused or recycled.
Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark, for example, all have high levels of EfW as an integral part of their waste management strategies. These countries also have high waste recycling rates. See table below.
Recycling and energy recovery rates in different European countries
This data (Source: Eurostat, 2010) highlights that recycling of municipal solid waste and EfW can combine to divert waste away from landfill. There is no evidence to suggest that EfW limits the development of recycling. Those countries with the lowest level of landfilling of municipal solid waste (less than 25%) also have the highest levels of both recycling and energy from waste.
In countries with some of the highest recycling rates (Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark) more than 30% wt. of total municipal waste is recovered
EfW via combustion enables materials, such as ferrous (steel) and non-ferrous metals (aluminium, copper, gold), to be extracted from the ash and recycled. The remaining mineral ash can then be used as an aggregate in a wide range of civil engineering applications.
Organisations that facilitate recycling, such as WRAP, see this as an important working area.