FAQ: EC on Thermal Conversion of MSW


In a 2011 report, the European Commission endorsed thermal treatment of municipal solid waste, combined with source separation and recycling along with landfilling of inert materials, as an environmentally responsible means of solid waste management and disposal. The Commission noted that these methods are practiced successfully in many countries with high Environmental Performance Index ratings.

The European Commission concluded, in part:

"Waste combustion is an environmentally conscious process when it is done properly. Countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Sweden, that were ranked as the top three nations in the Environmental Performance Index (2008), combust almost all of their non-recyclable waste. These countries have rigorous recycling policies, which play an important role in the environmental impacts of waste combustion. 

The primary responsibility in separating metals from waste should be on the consumers. Thus, public awareness and legislation in the United States are necessary. Recovery of metals at the source, such as small batteries, fluorescent lights, etc. should become customary. Improvement in the particulate control methods, to address UFP emissions, is needed in all stationary combustion sources. A few possibilities exist but more research in that area is required."