Selective ranking of “Waste Europe”
A study carried out in May 2007 on behalf of FNADE (French federation of waste management services), with the support of ADEME, analyzed various management methods for municipal solid waste in Europe. It highlighted major differences between countries.
According to a study carried out in Germany, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and France, there is one overarching trend: landfilling is on the decrease and the percentage of recovery is on the rise. Different levels of maturity for environmental topics result in wide discrepancies despite a common legislative framework. In the UK, Spain and Poland, landfilling still accounts for the largest share, whereas in Germany and the Netherlands, recovery is in the lead. The study emphasizes the link between effective waste management policy and strong legislative backing. Germany and the Netherlands are the two countries that have shown real political commitment to resource management, and the countries that have made the most significant reduction in landfilling are those that have the most restrictive regulations (for example, the TASIE law in Germany that excludes all organic matter from landfills) or dissuasive tax policies (as applied in the UK and the Netherlands).
Different contexts driving different trends
The different directions taken reflect the policies already in place. In Germany and the Netherlands, selective collection and recycling are reaching maximum potential. So, incineration is considered as an essential treatment form for remaining residual waste. In Spain, the public has a negative perception of incineration, thinking that the development of energy recovery will go against the development of recycling. As a result, municipalities choose waste management in light of public opposition to developing mechanical-biological treatments. In Poland, the first step involves bringing existing landfills up to standard and developing sort-at-source collection. The UK has embarked on a sea of change rejecting landfilling in favor of energy recovery and recycling. Whatever the differences, “the effort made by everyone must tend towards reducing the production of municipal solid waste, eying the conservation of resources and reducing GHG emissions,” points out Élisabeth Poncelet, International Affairs Manager in the Waste and Soil Division of ADEME, before going on to quote the conclusions from the FNADE-ADEME study. “The complexity of treatment processes, increased transportation of the products from pre-treatment processes and the need for environmental performance put all countries in a compromised position – especially given the continual rise in treatment costs.”