• Waste-to-Energy Facts

Facts...about Waste-to-Energy

Waste-to-Energy is an integral part of sustainable waste management acting in complement to recycling while enabling landfilling minimisation.

Waste-to-Energy (also called Energy-from-Waste) has an important role to play both on the energy recovery and on the environmental aspects of managing waste that is not suitable for recycling.

Making a valuable contribution to the reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions through better waste management and cleaner energy, Waste-toEnergy is a solution to multiple challenges.

Waste-to-Energy in brief...

Waste-to-Energy in brief...

  • Essential part of a sustainable waste management chain

  • Fully complementary to recycling by recovering energy from unrecyclable waste

  • Recovers significant amounts of ferrous and non-ferrous metals

  • Removes toxic substances from the eco-cycle

  • Generates valuable and sustainable electricity and heat, out of which 50% is recognised as renewable, and the other 50% comes from recovered energy sources, that would be lost otherwise

  • Reduces carbon footprint of human activities thanks to: avoiding methane emissions from landfill (methane has 28x bigger global warming potential than CO2), offsetting the use of fossil fuels for energy production and recovering materials

  • Allows for up to 95% landfill diversion rate

  • Helps diversify energy sources and increases independence of supply

  • Reliable European technology

Waste-to-Energy is complementary to recycling...

High Waste-to-Energy and recycling rates go together

An average EU citizen generates about 500kg of waste per year, and even assuming a recycling rate of 50%-60% (today it is 40%), still 200-250kg of residual, unrecyclable waste per citizen per year need to be treated.

Countries with the highest Recycling rates (left of the chart) rely on Waste-to-Energy for their waste that is not suitable for recycling, hence avoiding virtually any landfilling. The best waste management examples show that Waste-to-Energy is complementary to recycling.

Source: Waste Management Figures from EUROSTAT

Did you know that?

  • Metals such as steel and aluminium, mixed with municipal waste, are recycled from the bottom ash, while maintaining their material quality and value.

  • Other materials that form bottom ash are used as secondary raw material in construction.

  • In Belgium, a country that minimises landfilling, WtE plants are the source of more than 40% of all recycled aluminium.

Waste-to-Energy is a reliable source of renewable energy and heat...

Untapped energy source

The energy recovered in a Waste-to-Energy plant is used as electricity and/or heat. About half of the energy produced is renewable because it comes from the carbon-neutral biogenic fraction of waste.

Did you know that...

  • The WtE plants built by ESWET members in Europe generate an amount of energy that is equivalent of 19% of the gas imported from Russia in 2012.

  • On average, incinerated waste contains 10,000kJ/kg of energy. Therefore, each kilogram of waste could power a 12W eco-bulb (~60W) for 75 hours.

  • Energy generated from waste from medium-size city is enough to power a small city.

  • State-of-the-art boilers produced by ESWET members recover about 85% of the energy contained in the waste and make it usable as steam.

Great potential for heat

Did you know that...

  • 13% of heat for district heating networks in the EU is generated in Waste-to-Energy plants.

  • Half of district heating in Paris is supplied by three Waste-to-Energy plants.

  • Currently, recovered energy from waste for district heating systems represents in the EU 50 TWh per year, and it can go up to to 200 TWh per year by 2050.


Waste-to-Energy is clean...

Waste-to-Energy has very strict emission limits (for more than a decade!)

The European Commission keeps track of emissions from a wide range of punctual sources, including Waste-to-Energy. Browse through the data on their site.

Waste-to-Energy's dioxin emissions are not an issue

Already in 2005, when the German Environment Ministry was headed by Mr. Trittin from the Green Party, it was made clear that Waste-to-Energy does not contribute significantly to dioxins emissions. The document by the German Environment Ministry stating this can be found online.

See a more recent position of the German Green Party on Waste-to-Energy

Did you know that?

  • All the WtE plants in Flanders were only responsible for 0.02% of all Particulate Matter (PM2.5) emissions in 2014 (source).

  • WtE catches and removes pollutants from the eco-cycle that could otherwise leak to the environment from an untight landfill.

  • In France, a country with second total incineration capacity in Europe, dioxin emissions from Waste-to-Energy plants are well below stringent EU emission limits (source).


Waste-to-Energy seen by...

European Commission - Communication on an EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling

"Synergies between waste-to-energy processes and district heating/cooling could provide a secure, renewable, and in some cases, more affordable energy in displacing fossil fuels."

Read the Communication

British Government - DEFRA's Energy from Waste Guide

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs of the British Government has published a guide, explaining the necessity of Waste-to-Energy plants, intervening in the waste hierarchy after material recovery. They also give more technical information about the well-established Waste-to-Energy technology.

Austrian Government - White Book on Waste-to-Energy

In German and English on the Lebensministerium website

The Economist

"Energy from waste: Incinerators that use rubbish as a fuel to generate electricity and heat continue to have an image problem. That is unfair, because the technology has advanced considerably and has cleaned up its act."

Read the Full Article