EU waste incineration proposal moves closer

Commission expects proposal for non-hazardous waste incineration directive next spring

A new EU directive controlling pollution from the burning of non-hazardous waste could be formally proposed early next year, officials from the European Commission's environment directorate, DGXI, said yesterday.

Currently being developed by DGXI, the proposal is intended to replace two 1989 EU directives on new and existing municipal waste incinerators and bring controls broadly into line with those for hazardous waste incinerators. It covers a broader spectrum of waste and also takes account of the growing practice of burning waste in installations other than dedicated incinerators, such as cement kilns.

DGXI's thinking on the directive has been revealed in two working papers, the most recent of which was published in November. It is suggesting new limit values for emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, dioxins and hydrogen chloride. It is also proposing limits on the heavy metal content of liquid discharges and solid residues from waste burning operations.

Last week, the department discussed its proposals with experts from EU member states, while yesterday it consulted industry and environmental groups. Industry groups were divided on the working paper. The major debate yesterday was whether the new directive should cover installations such as cement kilns that sometimes use waste as a supplementary fuel source.

The European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (Fead) said that these processes should be subject to the same controls as dedicated waste incinerators. Otherwise, incinerator operators would be put at a competitive disadvantage. Cement producers argued that they are already adequately regulated under other EU legislation including that on integrated pollution prevention and control. DGXI's latest working paper includes controls on cement kilns and it appears unlikely to change its mind.

According to DGXI officials, a number of changes are likely to be made now before the proposal is circulated to other Commission departments. At last week's meeting, Scandinavian countries argued that biomass burning should not be covered because it is a relatively clean renewable fuel. A number of member states supported this stance, and it seems biomass burning may now be excluded.

DGXI has also decided to propose less stringent concentration limits on liquid discharges from waste burning installations, in order to bring them into line with legislation on hazardous waste incineration. Environmental group Greenpeace yesterday strongly criticised the Commission for this change.

A key issue for incinerator operators is the proposed new limit on nitrogen oxides emissions (NOx). Operators say this would require them to fit costly abatement equipment even though incinerators are a relatively small source of NOx emissions. In its latest paper, DGXI appears to have tried to accommodate their concerns by proposing a more lenient limit for smaller incinerators.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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