ZWE and Reloop publish a guidance on how to legislate mixed waste sorting in the context of the RED

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) and Reloop have released today these guidelines for legislating Mixed Waste Sorting (MWS) in the context of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED).

The guidelines were developed to clarify the amendment proposed by the European Parliament regarding the use of mixed wastes for ‘renewable energy’ purposes (1).

The document recommends applying MWS systems of defined quality to remove fossil-derived materials to ensure that only biogenic waste is used for renewable energy generation. Following the requirement, the operators would either need to pre-sort the waste on-site or demonstrate that all waste received has undergone sorting prior to it being delivered for incineration.

Janek Vähk, Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme coordinator at ZWE, stated: “Currently, at incineration plants, the ‘biodegradable fraction of mixed waste’ is never combusted without large quantities of (often recyclable) fossil-derived materials being present. Therefore, to ensure that the RED supports schemes that don’t allow the burning of fossil materials such as plastics, mixed waste sorting should be made mandatory for operators that want to sell their energy as renewable”.

Clarissa Morawski, CEO of Reloop, stated: “The criteria proposed doesn’t create a new obligation as it’s already in the definition of renewable energy to use only the biogenic fractions of wastes and not fossils”.

The guide also recommends setting the following minimum performance criteria for MSW

● For plastics > 70%, with non-target materials contributing no more than 10%
● For steel >80%, with non-target materials contributing no more than 4%
● For aluminium >60%, with non-target materials contributing no more than 6%

A recent report by Eunomia Research and Consulting found that MWS would be necessary (in addition to improving separate collection and design for recycling) to ensure that existing plastic packaging and municipal waste recycling targets are met and to ensure progress towards the EU’s wider carbon emissions reduction goals.

ZWE and Reloop call on the European Council and Parliament to improve the criteria for mixed wastes to ensure this would only qualify as a source of renewable energy if it has undergone sorting of defined quality.