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Circular Economy Calculation Tool

Spoiler Alert: Residual Waste will not disappear by 2035

July, 2019

Around the Circular Economy, there have been many speculations about the future of waste treatment, the prevention and recycling of waste and the amounts of residual waste that will need treatment in 2035 once the Circular Economy targets are achieved.

CEWEP thinks the best way to find out how much residual waste will actually need treatment in 2035 – the deadline for the targets set by the new EU Waste Framework Directive and EU Landfill Directive – is an evidence-based approach. Therefore, we made calculations based on available data, mainly from Eurostat.  Even with conservative assumptions, the results show that there will still be around 142 million tonnes of residual waste that will not be recycled or landfilled and consequently will need other reliable treatment capacity in 2035. Currently, the Waste-to-Energy incineration capacity to treat residual waste in EU28 is 90 million tonnes and the capacity for co-incineration is approximately 11 million tonnes.

Our peer-reviewed calculation tool allows for all interested stakeholders to change the assumptions and see how the waste weight shifts between recycling/composting, landfilling and the need for other residual waste treatment.

Despite the wide variations of scenarios and outcomes provided by the tool, one thing remains clear: residual waste will still need to be treated in 2035. If we want to avoid a gap of treatment capacity for residual waste, we have to prevent 160 million tonnes of waste (this means reducing by 30% the generation of waste).

CEWEP hopes that a basic understanding of these waste weight shifts will allow for a productive discussion on the future of sustainable waste treatment in Europe, the necessary investments and the future outcomes of the decisions that are taken today.

Click here to access the interactive Calculation Tool