A 2011 report by a Sita executive available from http://www.iswa.org/uploads/tx_iswaknowledgebase/Berthoud.pdf is well worth reading for an insight into how the waste industry view the issue of incineration overcapacity in Europe.
Incineration overcapacity is bad for the environment. Overcapacity makes it harder for local authorities to source third party waste to ‘top up’ their incinerator if they were to reduce their own ‘residual’ waste arisings. This, in turn, leads to excess capacity that results in artificially low gate fees that discourage reduction, re-use, recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion.
Whilst the UK Government has yet to acknowledge domestic overcapacity (perhaps because Defra do not even monitor incineration capacity), overcapacity is more widely recognised in other European countries. Some of these countries import UK waste to keep their facilities going, which both exacerbates our own domestic overcapacity and makes it more difficult for the UK to rely upon importing waste to keep our own incinerators operational.
In Final treatment of MSW and C&I waste in Germany and neighbouring countries. How to cope with emerging overcapacities? Mathieu Berthoud, Chief Operating Officer Sita Northern Europe (Suez Environnement Group) writes:
“Although these general considerations were known by the authorities, the public and the private waste management companies, an overcapacity was installed in certain countries and will not cease to grow in the near future. In the Netherlands the currently existing incineration plants and those under construction already provide an overcapacity. For this reason there will be no expansion of the Netherlands incineration capacity till 2020…”
“Most German studies show an overcapacity [in Germany] estimated between 2 and 4 million tons. As in the Netherlands (overcapacity estimated 600 kt/year) this corresponds in Germany to 8% to 12% of the installed capacity. Already today Germany is a net importer of waste in order to satisfy the demand of the incinerators. As reasons for the overcapacity, the simultaneous declining national waste quantities and expansion of the incineration capacity are given. Like in the Netherlands some are already calling for a moratorium on extension of German incineration capacity.”
“In Sweden the incineration capacity grew from 2 million to 6 million tons in the last 10 years. In the 2012 the overcapacity will reach 2 million tons. Today Sweden continues to build thermal facilities as waste incineration is seen as an energy production business. They are extremely dependant on imports. The situation can become worse if the imports from Norway are stopped.”
“In Belgium an incineration and land filling ban exists for selectively collected waste that can be recycled. A restrictive permitting policy for landfills and incineration facilities has to avoid an overcapacity for the treatment of mixed waste. Such an overcapacity would lead to lower disposal costs and take away the drive towards more prevention, re‐use and recycling.”
Section 4, “Consequences of the Overcapacity”, is also worth reading:
Van Gansewinkel Groep closed one of its AVR incinerators in Rotterdam as of 1 January 2010. The current economic situation, overcapacity in the Dutch waste processing market and an uneven European level playing field, made the planned investment in the incineration plant irresponsible.
In an interview, the chairman of Remondis’ management board Ludger Rethmann said that the company is planning to sell its interests in two or three waste incinerators over the next two years. The plants might also be shut down altogether. It was also Ludger Rethmann who warned the ‘waste world’ for the upcoming incineration overcapacity since 2006. Financial write-offs or bankruptcies cannot be excluded.”
…As far as Western Europe is concerned, the market for technology providers will be limited to renovation, modernisation and maintenance of existing plants over the coming years.
…Long-distance transport of waste on the road and in the worst case waste tourism is expected. Pressure on the organic recycling streams (organic waste, plastic and wood) with potential consequences on the European targets will happen.”
- Data on UK RDF exports – http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/rdf_exports_permitted_by_the_ea#incoming-288823.
- “Some European weekend reading” (UKWIN article). https://ukwin.org.uk/2012/06/08/some-european-weekend-reading/
- “Rotterdam incinerator closed due to ‘overcapacity'” (UKWIN article) – https://ukwin.org.uk/2012/05/17/rotterdam-incinerator-closed-due-to-overcapacity/