The approval of the Waste Framework Directive1 -WFD- introduced some important changes in the European waste market.
One of the most relevant issues regarding environmental impacts of the WFD is that it opened the incineration market at a European level. This means that the evaluation of the needs of incineration capacity can be assessed at a European level, and that transport of waste between countries is allowed without notification provided that they are treated in waste incineration facilities that can be considered as energy recovery installations according to the efficiency formula set in the Directive.
This opens the door to the construction of new incineration plants in countries that already have a high share of waste incineration, and can have a negative effect on the achievement of high recycling rates. This also opens the door to the increase of waste shipping within the EU, which contradicts the principle of proximity set out in the WFD. On the other hand, the fact that waste shipping for incineration with energy recovery does not need authorisation creates a lack of information and threatens the recycling goals set by the Waste Framework Directive.
This document addresses the legislation in force in the EU regarding waste management and waste shipping; the current situation of waste incineration and waste shipping within the EU, focusing on the question of overcapacity; and the prospects for the next years, focussing on the impacts of waste incineration overcapacity on the achievement of an environmentally sound waste policy.