EU policy

International Commitments and Guidance

  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  Paris Agreement -on 5 October 2016, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement was achieved. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.

EU Directives and Policy GuidanceEU Directive 2008/98/EC – Waste

  • EU Directive 1999/31/EC – Landfill of Waste
  • EU Directive 2009/28/EC – Renewable Energy
  • EU Directive 2004/35/EC – Environmental Liability
  • EU Directive 2010/74/EU – Industrial Emissions
  • EU Directive 2015/720/EU (94/62/EC) – Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive
  • EU Directive 2006/66/EC – Batteries
  • Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy – COM(2015) 614 final

International Policy Guidance

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The International Expert Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Fourth Assessment Report summarised that Waste-to-Energy “… can provide significant mitigation potential for the waste sector, especially in the short term” by replacing landfill. This is because Waste-to-Energy facilities divert biodegradable waste away from landfill and use it to produce renewable energy, reducing methane emissions from landfill as well as displacing electricity from fossil fuels.
The aim of the recently revised Waste Framework Directive, which included reclassifying efficient Waste-to-Energy facilities as recovery operations, was to reduce the landfill of waste and the potent greenhouse gases arising from such landfill sites. The reclassification also sought to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. Thus the move supported reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the treatment of waste in Waste-to-Energy plants.

EU Directives

Circular Economy

The European Commission’s  Circular Economy Package  is currently in the middle of the EU legislative process and includes revised legislative proposals on waste, landfill and packaging. The Circular Economy Package consists of an EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy that establishes a programme of action, with measures covering the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. The annex to the action plan sets out the timeline when the actions will be completed. The proposed actions will contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use, and bring benefits for both the environment and the economy.

The revised legislative proposals set clear targets for reduction of waste, reduced waste to landfill and increased recycling targets.

Clean Energy Package

Published by European Commission in  November 2016 and currently in the middle of the EU’s legislative process, the CEP includes legislative proposals and communications on renewable energy, energy efficiency, electricity market design, security of supply etc. Proposed targets include a binding EU level energy efficiency target of 30% by 2030 and at least 27% for the share of renewable energy consumed in the EU in 2030.

Waste Framework Directive

The Waste Framework Directive seeks to promote the alternatives to landfill by (amongst other things) strengthening the role of the waste hierarchy. The five-step hierarchy must now be strictly adhered to in all Member State policy and legislation, with options positioned higher up in the hierarchy being prioritised ahead of those positioned beneath them. Recycling is prioritised and a mandatory 50% recycling rate by 2020 was included. In accordance with the Directive on Waste, the European Communities (Waste Directive) Regulations 2011 mandate the separate collection of paper, metal, plastic and glass. By 2020, these and other wastes from households have to be recycled at a level of not less than 50% by weight.

The Directive also moved waste-to-energy plants that meet a specified energy efficiency criteria up the waste hierarchy, positioning them above landfill disposal as recovery plants.

Waste Incineration Directive

The aim of the Waste Incineration Directive (2000/76/EC) is to prevent or to reduce as far as possible negative effects on human health and the environment caused by the incineration and co-incineration of waste. It sets controls on releases to water and limits for air emissions. The Directive also makes a clear distinction between incineration plants and co-incineration plants, setting higher emissions limits for the former. The Directive sets out the highest standards of all industry for air and water emissions from waste-to-energy plants.

Landfill Directive

This Directive, which has been transposed into Irish law, sets out the most pressing and challenging targets currently facing the Irish waste sector. It requires that, by 2010, Ireland reduce the amount of Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW) going to landfill to 75% of the total amount (by weight) produced in 1995. Subsequently, the amount of BMW going to landfill must not exceed;
•    50% of the total amount (by weight) of BMW produced in 1995 by 2013; and
•    35% of the total amount (by weight) of BMW produced in 1995 by 2016.

Due to its historical reliance on landfill, Ireland obtained a four year extension on the first two targets, which were to be met by other Member States in 2006 and 2009. Ireland achieved the 2010 landfill diversion target from the Landfill Directive with a comfortable margin. However,  the 2020 landfill target, and the Government goal of virtually eliminating all waste from landfill,  may present more of a challenge.

EU Climate Change Policy

Energy and climate change issues go hand in hand as priority issues for the EU and Ireland. EU energy policy paper was designed around the core objective that the EU should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020. In looking to 2030, the EU has set a target of at least 40% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels). In addition to generating renewable energy and helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, Waste-to-Energy facilities also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector.

International Policy Guidance

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

The International Expert Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Fourth Assessment Report summarised that Waste-to-Energy “… can provide significant mitigation potential for the waste sector, especially in the short term” by replacing landfill. This is because Waste-to-Energy facilities divert biodegradable waste away from landfill and use it to produce renewable energy, reducing methane emissions from landfill as well as displacing electricity from fossil fuels.
The aim of the Waste Framework Directive, which included reclassifying efficient Waste-to-Energy facilities as recovery operations, was to reduce the landfill of waste and the potent greenhouse gases arising from such landfill sites. The reclassification also sought to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. Thus the move supported reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the treatment of waste in Waste-to-Energy plants.