EU waste incineration vote relieves industry

Incinerators escape most proposed stricter emission limits but vow to fight on burning temperature

Operators of incineration and coincineration plants breathed a sigh of relief today as the European Parliament largely rejected attempts by its environment committee to toughen new emissions limits for waste incineration plants than already agreed by ministers. The cement industry, which coincinerates waste in its kilns, said it was "all in all, happy" with the vote.

MEPs gave a second reading in Strasbourg to the draft EU waste incineration directive (ENDS Daily 19 January). The law will set tighter monitoring and emission limits for all incineration facilities and set the first EU-wide limits on releases from coincineration plants.

Led by Dutch rapporteur MEP Hans Blokland, the parliament's environment committee had called for dust emissions from cement kilns to be limited to 15 milligrams per cubic metre (mg/m3). It also called for nitrogen oxides (NOx) limits of 800 mg/m3 and 500 mg/m3 on existing and new kilns respectively (ENDS Daily 23 February).

The full assembly today backed the NOx limits but rejected that for dust, preferring the 30 mg/m3 agreed by ministers last year. Jean-Marie Chandelle of EU industry body Cembureau welcomed the move, saying the stricter limit would have been possible only at "disproportionate" cost.

He said the NOx limit on new plants would be "quite a challenge" but not excessive. The rules for existing plants would only cause problems for a few installations, he said. He added that a foiled attempt by some MEPs to set tougher emission limits on the coincineration of treated municipal waste would have stifled development of fuels from wastes containing high levels of petrochemicals such as polyolefins.

The result of the vote was more mixed for managers of dedicated hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste incinerators. The environment committee did not want to change new emission limits for these plants agreed last year, but did propose removing extensive derogations for smaller plants.

The assembly rejected this proposal, but voted narrowly to make all incinerators burning waste containing more than 1% halogenated organic compounds - such as PVC - increase burner temperatures from 850 to 1100 degrees centigrade for two seconds. A source in the waste management industry said the move would be stiffly opposed as it was "impossible to solve in practice."

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: 284 2111. The parliament's amendments to the common position will be posted here tomorrow. Click on "15 March".

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