RESPONSE ISSUE 06
WHAT IS A CIRCULAR ECONOMY? Ideally, in a circular economy no waste or pollution is produced, and there are two types of material flows: biological nutrients, designed to re-enter the biosphere safely, and technical nutrients, which are designed to circulate in the production system without entering the biosphere, as well as being restorative and regenerative. Only a few idealists believe that a fully circular economy is possible, but almost all experts agree that the mounting pressure on the Earth’s resources means we must take big steps away from the traditional linear economy and its “take, make, dispose” production model. Two factors are driving the emergence of the circular economy in its present form: long-term price increases for raw materials and environmental legislation/green taxation. Source: ISWA
Ambitious EU GOALS “This is why the European Commission has adopted the ambitious recycling objectives in the Circular Economy Package proposed in December 2015,” explains Julio Garcia Burgués, Head of the Waste Management & Recycling Unit at the Directorate General Environment. Europe currently loses around 600 million tonnes of reusable or recyclable material contained in waste each year. Although Europe is making efforts in this area, in 2014 the EU recycled, on average, only 44% of its municipal waste, landfilled 28% and incinerated 27%. Some countries, however, already generate a lot of energy from their waste – Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Denmark, for example. Waste generates more than 30% of the total district heating in the Greater Copenhagen Area. The Circular Economy proposal is primarily aimed to promote global competitiveness, create new jobs and support sustainable economic growth. It contains several ambitious goals, including that landfill should constitute no more than 10% of municipal waste and that 65% material of municipal waste should be recycled, both by 2030. In 2015, only 34% of household waste from the City of Copenhagen was recycled. The ambitious goals raised concerns from some industry professionals that the EU wants wasteto-energy (WtE) to play a diminishing role in the future. But contrary to some beliefs, recycling and waste incineration are complementary when it comes to sustainable waste management and the circular economy. Julio Garcia Burgués explains that the circular economy actually depends on waste-to-energy.
Vestforbrænding is the largest waste incineration plant in Denmark.
“The future holds a place for waste-to-energy solutions,” he says. Linear economy on the decline Bettina Kamuk, Ramboll’s Head of Department for Waste-to-Energy, and Björn Appelqvist, Ramboll’s Head of Department for Site Solutions & Waste Management, look to the circular economy as a common guideline. They both took part in a Task Force on Circular Economy at ISWA, which has produced six reports on the circular economy. All conclude that the