The Climate Roadmap of the European Waste-to-Energy Sector | The path to Carbon Negative

16 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2022

See all articles by Fabio Poretti

Fabio Poretti

CEWEP – Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants

Ella Stengler

CEWEP – Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants

Date Written: November 23, 2022

Abstract

Waste to Energy (WtE), waste incineration with energy recovery, provides a sanitary service to communities by treating residual waste that cannot be prevented or recycled. There are ca. 500 WtE plants in Europe treating around 100 million tonnes of residual waste every year, from municipal but also commercial and industrial activities.

While contributing to circular economy and sustainable waste management, WtE also brings many benefits in an EU climate perspective. Significant CO2eq savings are delivered daily by WtE thanks to fossil fuel substitution for the equivalent production of electricity and heat, landfill diversion (avoiding disperse methane emissions, a greenhouse gas much more potent than CO2) and metals recovery from the bottom ash left after incineration. Even without considering the important benefits associated with landfill diversion, the European WtE sector is already climate neutral today and plays an active role towards climate mitigation.

In the future, WtE has the potential to further reduce its carbon footprint through the application of Carbon Capture and Use or Storage (CCUS) technologies, as an extra but effective tool to even reach a net negative CO2eq emissions balance. Various CCUS projects in the WtE industry have kicked-off across Europe in the last years and many more are under development. A non-exhaustive list of some on-going CCUS initiatives in the European WtE sector is given in Table 1. According to the estimations developed by CEWEP, assuming that in a future scenario CCUS technologies could be integrated into at least 50% of the European WtE facilities, capturing at least 50% of their total CO2 emissions, the European WtE sector would be able to achieve in total a net negative carbon balance of about - 20 Ml tonnes CO2eq per year. With a broader integration of carbon capture equipment and as CCUS technologies will reach full commercial maturity, greater reduction potentials can be envisaged in the order of - 40 and - 75 Ml tonnes CO2eq per year.
If supported by EU policies, WtE will be a pivotal enabler of the ambitious climate targets of the European Green Deal, while guaranteeing a key environmental service to society.

Keywords: Waste to Energy, Waste Incineration, CEWEP, European Green Deal, Carbon Neutrality, CCUS, BECCS, LCA

Suggested Citation

Poretti, Fabio and Stengler, Ella, The Climate Roadmap of the European Waste-to-Energy Sector | The path to Carbon Negative (November 23, 2022). Proceedings of the 16th Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies Conference (GHGT-16) 23-24 Oct 2022, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4284664 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4284664

Fabio Poretti (Contact Author)

CEWEP – Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants ( email )

Avenue de Tervueren 113
Bruxelles, B-1040
Belgium

Ella Stengler

CEWEP – Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants

Avenue de Tervueren 113
Bruxelles, B-1040
Belgium

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