唧唧堂编辑二朵2014-05-12 6:04 PM

The incineration of waste in Europe: Issues and perspectives 

Abstract 

Incineration (including combustion, gasification and pyrolysis) is but one family of options for the disposal and recovery of waste. Today, landfilling remains the most widely used waste disposal option across the European Union (EU). However, a majority of actors expects an incineration and co-incineration to take an increasing role in the medium term due to forthcoming regulatory restrictions in landfilling. Dedicated municipal solid waste incineration capacity throughout the EU is estimated to be 45 million tonnes/year. 


The incineration of waste is a complex issue and the scientific background behind the various options is still far from clear. Four main dimensions can be identified: technological, environmental, economic and social.


The incineration of waste can be performed using various technologies. Most of the dedicated municipal solid waste incineration occurs inside grate furnaces. Other technologies exist such as fluidised beds. Each of these technologies has numerous variations in order to optimise the processes for specific conditions. The co-incineration of wastes substituting other fuels in industrial facilities such as cement kilns, steel works or power plants is also popular and occurs under other technical conditions than in dedicated waste incinerators. This causes intense commercial competition and many debates about the emission limits applied to the various facilities. Additionally, thermolysis, a technology which had failed in the past, appears to be preparing a come-back in the waste management field, thanks to new combinations of proven process steps.

Each of these options has different advantages and disadvantages, but the combination of commercial competition and regulatory pressure imposes a continuous improvement of environmental profiles and recovery efficiencies. For example, all new waste incinerators recover energy, but many existing ones still do not and flue gas cleaning is becoming both more effective and more widespread. It is therefore not possible to adopt a uniform attitude vis-à-vis the incineration of waste. In order to use each technology in the best possible way, the pre-treatment of waste can be very important. The European waste legislation regards the selective collection of waste as beneficial to the subsequent management of the waste streams, be it by incineration or by other means, but the opinions of the various actors are more nuanced. 

A number of environmental issues are linked to the incineration of waste. The most publicly sensitive ones are related to atmospheric emissions of dioxins and heavy metals, now largely addressed by flue gas treatment. The management of ashes and slag also requires caution because of high heavy metal content. Cement kilns avoid the problems of ash and slag disposal as most minerals get trapped in the clinker and are recovered as raw material but some issues still remain on smokestack emissions. Debate continues about the potential release of heavy metals from concrete on the long-term. Slags and ashes are often used (reportedly safely) for certain civil engineering applications.

From an economic standpoint, the cost of incineration across the EU is still very variable but is still rising in general due to the increasingly stringent emission limit requirements. For state-of-the-art facilities, costs appear to be stabilising. In some European countries, a functioning market for the incineration of wastes in different types of facilities has emerged. Overall, there is now a drive to maximise energy recovery in all the forms of incineration of waste, generating income.

Waste management has a significant cost, making waste prevention always desirable. Considering the large investment necessary to achieve an adequate waste management system, long-term economic and legal stability are also required. The incineration of wastes is currently covered by three directives, one for hazardous wastes and two for municipal wastes. However, they leave a number of other unregulated. In order to actualise and bring coherence to the European regulatory scene, to close the existing regulatory loopholes and to be more comprehensive in the control of emission limit values, a new directive is being proposed, replacing the two directives on municipal waste.

Waste management has a significant cost, making waste prevention always desirable. Considering the large investment necessary to achieve an adequate waste management system, long-term economic and legal stability are also required. 

The incineration of wastes is currently covered by three directives, one for hazardous wastes and two for municipal wastes. However, they leave a number of other unregulated. In order to actualise and bring coherence to the European regulatory scene, to close the existing regulatory loopholes and to be more comprehensive in the control of emission limit values, a new directive is being proposed, replacing the two directives on municipal waste.

Waste management has a significant cost, making waste prevention always desirable. Considering the large investment necessary to achieve an adequate waste management system, long-term economic and legal stability are also required. The incineration of wastes is currently covered by three directives, one for hazardous wastes and two for municipal wastes. However, they leave a number of other unregulated. In order to actualise and bring coherence to the European regulatory scene, to close the existing regulatory loopholes and to be more comprehensive in the control of emission limit values, a new directive is being proposed, replacing the two directives on municipal waste.

Today, the wide variety of materials covered by the notion of “waste” in the European Union are increasingly perceived as a resource to be used as efficiently as possible. Various economic actors are already competing for it resulting in a rise of efficiencies for material and energy recovery in incineration. If proper regulatory safeguards are in place that maintain a certain flexibility and the use of decision support tools such as life-cycle assessment spreads, this trend should lead to the natural optimisation of waste management in Europe. Any sound waste management approach should match the various types of waste to the available technical options for recovery and treatment in order to find the best overall combination. The global objective is to find the best possible use for waste while minimising adverse effects on public health and the environment.

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