War of words over Swedish waste incineration

Industry rejects Greenpeace claim that most plants will fail forthcoming EU emission rules

A row broke out in Sweden this week over the environmental acceptability of waste incineration. Greenpeace Nordic claimed the country would have "great trouble" implementing emission limits due under new EU waste incineration rules. The Swedish Waste Management Association RVF described the claim as "ridiculous".

In its report, Greenpeace claimed that 18 of Sweden's 21 existing plants would fail to meet at least two of the emission limits likely to be agreed in the EU waste incineration directive, due for adoption later this year (ENDS Daily 15 March). Calling for incineration to be taxed, the group argued that it was a large source of dioxins, chlorinated phenols and benzene, in addition to other pollutants. It criticised the technology's overall environmental impacts and questioned whether Sweden should be exporting it to other countries.

Greenpeace's intervention followed forecasts that a government crackdown on waste landfilling could lead to consumption in Swedish incinerators doubling to 4.5m tonnes annually in the next few years. A landfill tax was introduced on 1 January, to be followed by bans on landfilling of combustible waste in two years' time and organic waste from 2005.

Responding to Greenpeace's report, RVF maintained that there would be "absolutely no problems" in complying with the new directive when new emission limits for existing plants take effect from 2005, nor for any new incinerators. The spokesperson said that Sweden's five largest existing plants - which account for 70% of the total waste burned - should have necessary improvements in place "within a couple of years" and well in advance of most other EU countries.

The waste management industry was committed to expanding incineration, and considered that introduction of an incineration tax was "not on the political agenda," the spokesperson said. Any such move "would provoke tremendous political and public protest," he claimed, because of incineration plant's strong record in recovering energy and supplying it to local communities through district heating schemes.

Follow Up:
Greenpeace Nordic, tel: +46 8 702 7086. Its report is available in English from gunnar@nordic.greenpeace.org or in Swedish from Greenpeace Sweden; RVF, tel: +46 40 35 66 00.

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