ZWE welcomes plans to include incinerators in ETS

Today (22 June), the members of the European Parliament (EP) have approved the inclusion of municipal incinerators within the scope of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), as of 2026. This decision entails pricing fossil CO2 emissions from municipal waste incinerators.

EfWIn a statement, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) said that the proposed inclusion is ‘very positive’. However, the group cast aspersions on the 2026 inclusion date, asserting that this is ‘too late’ due to the quantity of plastics burned by waste incineration plants, and the associated carbon emissions.

ZWE notes a recent report by Equanimator, which finds that one-third of the CO2 emissions from the plastics system are ‘caused by the incineration of plastic waste’. Pricing waste incinerators’ fossil CO2 emissions, the group says, is necessary to incentivise plastics circularity and waste prevention.

The report also finds that sorting recyclables from residual waste could deliver ‘savings of 39 million tonnes CO2eq’, as well as driving progress toward municipal waste recycling targets.

ZWE states that ‘the inclusion of incinerators is of fundamental importance to allow the EU climate and circularity goals to be successfully met’, affirming calls on the European Council to ‘support the deletion of the scope-exemption of municipal waste incineration installations in Annex I of the ETS-Directive.’

Janek Vähk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme Coordinator at ZWE, said: “We believe that municipal waste incinerators must bear their climate costs and should be included already.

“The inclusion would ensure that recyclables are pulled out of the waste stream intended for incineration and recycled in line with the EU waste hierarchy by applying mixed waste sorting systems.”

ESWET: Making EfW more expensive ‘not necessarily’ an improvement

Earlier this week, the European Suppliers of Waste-to-Energy Technology (ESWET) urged MEPs to vote against including municipal incinerators within the scope of the ETS. The organisation stated that ‘making [Energy-from-Waste (EfW)] more expensive will not necessarily improve the waste management framework.

ESWET asserted that the proposed change to the ETS would have ‘the opposite’ effect, diverting non-recyclable waste to landfill more often, as ‘the cheapest alternative’.

The organisation also called on the European Parliament to ‘stress the need for a conditional impact assessment prior to any inclusion of [EfW] in the ETS’, which would ‘ensure that it does not trigger detrimental side-effects on the entire waste management chain.’
In a statement, ESWET stressed the methane impacts of landfills, asserting that diversion is ‘the main contributor to GHG mitigation’. Incinerators with EfW facilities, the organisation said, ‘offset their emissions via landfill diversion, and recovery of energy and materials that would otherwise be lost’.

ESWET added that such facilities have ‘the potential to go carbon negative with the integration of CCUS technologies.’