Energy-from-waste: green group concerned over new standards (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images) Energy-from-waste: green group concerned over new standards (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Green group warns of shortcomings in new incinerator standards

Environmentalists have issued guidance to incinerator watchdogs warning that new EU standards for waste incineration plants published last month fail to promote uptake of the most advanced techniques for air emissions abatement.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said the new best available techniques (BAT) document for waste incineration, which sets emissions, monitoring and efficiency standards for compliance with the Industrial Emissions Directive, includes emission levels higher than what can now be achieved. 

EEB senior technical officer Aliki Kriekouki, who represented environmental groups in consultation with the commission, told ENDS the new standards include “some significant improvements in comparison to the original 2006 ones”, including progress on monitoring mercury and dioxin emissions, management of abnormal operating conditions and abatement of water pollution.  

The waste incineration BAT (WI BAT) was welcomed on its publication after a five year consultation process by the Confederation of European Waste to Energy Plants (CEWEP) which, however, warned it failed to mention problems associated with monitoring the “very low emission values” of energy-from-waste (EfW) plants. 

The EEB this week published a briefing for incineration watchdogs on what it says are shortcomings in the WI BAT. 

Kriekouki said NOx emissions are suggested in the BAT as high as 150 mg/Nm3 “whereas data show that even generally less effective techniques, such as SNCR [selective non-catalytic reduction], can achieve levels lower than 100 mg/Nm3”.

Several member states already apply emissions limits stricter than the BAT associated emission limits (AEL) in the revised standards, said Kriekouki. 

“Failure to ensure Europe-wide levels for harmful pollutants are set based on frontrunners performance is unfair to European citizens living in countries that have weaker limits,” he said. “It would also represent an absurd setback for those countries that have acted to protect human health and the environment by requiring a higher level of protection.”

EEB wants a maximum level of 100mg/Nm³ for NOx emissions to air for both new and existing incinerators. 

The group also fears a “loophole” in the BAT could allow operators to emit more pollution if they add biomass such as wood chippings to the waste they already burn.

“Ultimately,” added Kriekouki, “the real impact of the new standards will largely depend on how our governments will implement them on the ground.”

The commission has previously rejected EEB’s claims that the new BAT sets weaker emission limits

Follow-up: EEB briefing

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