ZWE responds to European Parliament’s new position on RED III

The European Parliament has published its final position on the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III), altering the common target for the EU’s renewable energy consumption to ‘at least 55 per cent’ by 2030.

incineratorThe Directive’s update will see all potentials for the development of renewable energy ‘optimally exploited’, with the European Parliament presenting this as a necessary condition to achieving the EU’s objective of climate neutrality by 2050. Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has expressed its support for this position.

Incinerating mixed and biogenic wastes

The Directive will also now require the sorting of mixed wastes directed to incineration, aiming to remove as much fossil material for recycling as possible. In an announcement, ZWE affirmed this decision as a ‘strengthening’ of sustainability criteria. The Directive’s update also mandates the separate collection obligations for the incineration of biogenic waste.

However, ZWE asserted that the incineration of mixed waste will see large quantities of recyclable plastic directed towards combustion instead.

The non-profit cited findings from a recent report, which suggest that introducing mandatory sorting for all municipal ‘residual’ (mixed) waste streams would boost the effective plastic packaging collection rate to above 90 per cent. This would potentially enable EU Member States to achieve their recycling targets.

‘Avoided emissions’

According to the non-profit, the European Parliament’s proposed limitations on the potential use of fossil waste-derived ‘recycled carbon fuels’ – such as plastic-to-fuels – are an ‘improvement’.

The new wording proposed by the body removes the concept of ‘avoided emissions’, which would have allowed manufacturers to artificially discount emissions from ‘avoided’ alternative emissions, i.e. waste incineration.

‘Avoided emissions’, ZWE says, would have ‘only theoretically’ improved overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fuel, making it possible for recycled carbon fuel to meet the required at least 70 per cent GHG saving threshold required for transportation to contribute toward the renewable targets.

ZWE’s announcement further called on the European Parliament to maintain its position on the mixed waste and recycled carbon fuels during the upcoming trilogues with the Council.

ZWE: RED III should not provide ‘perverse incentives’ for incineration

Janek Vähk, ZWE’s Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme Coordinator, said: “The Renewable Energy Directive should not allow providing perverse incentives for the combustion of the ‘biodegradable fraction of mixed waste waste’, as in case of incineration plants, it is never combusted without there also being fossil-derived materials present.

“Therefore, the requirement for mixed waste sorting will ensure that mixed waste cannot be directly incinerated for ‘renewable energy’.

“The current energy crisis has highlighted the importance of reducing the demand for fossil fuels. The reuse or recycling of plastic waste will help us to decouple from fossil fuels, as over 20 per cent of fossil gas consumption in the EU is used to make plastics. Moreover, 50 per cent of European naphtha (one of the precursors for making plastics) is supplied by Russia.”

Lauriane Veillard, ZWE’s Chemical Recycling and Plastic-to-Fuels Policy Officer, added: “The removal of the concept of ‘avoided’ emissions underlines the true overall GHG emissions of recycled carbon fuels. This is a first step in the right direction to showcase the truth about false green solutions.

"We are positive of how stricter rules that make plastics to fuels ineligible for the so-called low-carbon transport fuels has been ensured.”