Scenarios for the Implementation of EU Waste Legislation at National Level and their Consequences for Emissions from Municipal Waste Incineration

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Incineration plays a significant role in modern municipal solid waste (MSW) management of European countries. There are 405 treatment facilities in the European Union (EU) and another 43 plants are planned to be built in the coming years. The number of municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI) plants is not only increasing due to rising waste amounts but also as a consequence of EU waste-concerned directives issued over the last two decades. This study analyses the potential influence of diverse national implementations of EU waste policies on the future emission loads to air from MSWI in different European countries. This is exemplified by constructing waste policy implementation scenarios using an adapted formative scenario analysis approach, coupled with a probabilistic MSWI emission model employing microsimulation, which enables us to model changing incinerated waste amounts and waste compositions for each country over time. This allows us to describe possible future emission levels of MSWI in the year 2020 in 33 European countries, and in detail for Switzerland, Poland and the United Kingdom. Uncertain future emission levels are calculated and compared with the emission levels determined by the scenarios’ implications.

We find that, depending on the scenario selected, in countries with currently small MSWI sectors like Poland median pollutant emission loads can change by a factor of between 1.4 and 336 for greenhouse gases (GHG) and 1.8 and 561 for ammonia (NH3) compared to the reference state. For countries like the United Kingdom, with a current 9.7% share of MSWI in their waste management, this factor would be in the range of 1.3 and 7.3 for GHG and 1.3 and 9.7 for NH3. Our results suggest that these variations are not primarily the results of the EU policy framework, but are mainly caused by the way these policies are implemented on the national level. However, comparing the emissions for Switzerland, a country with a high share of MSWI (50%), we do not find significant changes in the emission loads between the reference state and the future considering various scenarios and the uncertainty in the emission loads.
ZeitschriftResources, Conservation and Recycling
Seiten (von - bis)67-77
Anzahl der Seiten11
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 12.2011


  • Nachhaltigkeitswissenschaft - Municipal solid waste incineration, Formative scenario analysis, Probabilistic emission model, Waste directives, Europe