Shortage of waste treatment capacity in Europe looms

The European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC) and the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP) anticipate a shortage of treatment capacity on the European waste market. Recycling companies are finding it increasingly difficult to dispose of the waste streams remaining after recycling or sorting. The organisations expect that the recycling market will come under further pressure as the deadline approaches for meeting the targets for the circular economy in 2035. CEWEP has calculated that in 2035 there will be a shortage of treatment capacity in Europe to the tune of 41 million tonnes.

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The EU is aiming for 55% recycling in 2025, 60% in 2030 and 65% in 2035. However, larger supplies of materials for recycling and higher sorting intensities will result in growing volumes of residual streams to be incinerated. There must be sufficient capacity to treat these wastes. According to EuRIC and CEWEP, though, there threatens to be a shortage. CEWEP has developed a special tool to calculate this. Moreover, the economic upturn of recent years means that there is even more waste. Also, more waste streams are remaining in Europe because various Asian countries no longer want to take them for treatment.

Investing in treatment capacity

If Europe is serious about reducing large-scale landfilling, more investment will be needed in adequate collection systems and sufficient sorting and recycling capacity. EuRIC and CEWEP argue that additional treatment capacity is also needed for non-recyclable combustible residual waste. The waste market is a European market and needs to be managed at the European level. It would be a waste of capital resources if one country were to build more waste-to-energy plants while at the same time another country closes its facilities.

Dutch waste sector holds key position

Current developments highlight the need the make full use of the existing infrastructure if we are to achieve the EU recycling targets. The Netherlands has one of the best and most innovative waste infrastructures, making it an example to many other countries. The Dutch waste industry can devote all its remaining capacity to treating waste from other EU countries and thereby help to put a stop to the large-scale landfilling of waste.

Ella Stengler (CEWEP):"CEWEP has calculated that in 2035 there will be a shortage of treatment capacity in Europe to the tune of 41 million tonnes."
Emmanuel Katrakis (EuRIC):"Our members are finding it increasingly difficult to dispose of the waste streams remaining after recycling or sorting."