CO2 emissions in the Netherlands are increasing now that Italian household waste is being incinerated. Part of those emissions can be avoided if the plastic is removed from that waste, according to a study by ABN Amro. But at the moment that is not possible.
For the Italians, the export of the waste is pure environmental gain. But the Netherlands, which is already struggling to reduce CO2 emissions sufficiently, is not benefiting from this.
Starting this month, a weekly train with 900 tons of household waste will travel from Rome to the incinerators of the AEB in Amsterdam. Waste that would otherwise be dumped on rubbish dumps around Rome is now used as a raw material for energy production for companies and households in Amsterdam.
That makes the environment better. Dumping waste produces a lot of methane, a strong greenhouse gas. The combustion releases CO2, but that is less harmful to the environment than the emissions from landfill. The environmental gain only ends up with the Italians, they are freed from their methane-producing waste. Amsterdam, however, is concerned with the emissions of the incinerated waste. This causes CO2 and nitrogen in the air here.
“We look at the environmental benefits at an international level,” said an AEB spokesperson. She emphasizes that AEB remains within the standards for CO2 emissions. The import of waste is necessary. “This allows us to run the installation as efficiently as possible.” Moreover, the combustion in AEB is only temporary. Rome wants to build its own installation to burn waste. AEB emphasizes that the Italian waste does not lead to more CO2 emissions. The total amount of waste that is incinerated is not increasing, according to the company.
Yet there is still much more environmental benefit to be achieved. The CO2 emissions of Italian waste could be more than halved if the plastic waste were filtered out of household waste, according to a study by ABN Amro. “Italian waste contains an average of 13 percent plastic waste,” says David Bolscher, sector analyst Industry, Transport and Logistics at ABN Amro. “That plastic accounts for more than half of the CO2 emissions from the incineration of the waste.”
However, AEB cannot remove the plastic, the separation installation is already running at full speed. “And in Italy they don’t have a separator for plastic waste,” says Bolscher. But according to the analyst, such an installation can be set up fairly quickly. The problem, however, is that recycling plastic is not profitable. Recycled plastic is much more expensive than virgin plastic. Without a subsidy or legal obligations to use recycled plastic, the reuse will not get off the ground, Bolscher fears.
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