Waste incineration vs separation
Dr Christopher Ciantar from WasteServ (The Sunday Times, August 28) correctly states that the European Union sets recycling targets for its member states. These are to be found in the council directive 94/62/EC. The amended directive 2004/12/EC regulates the treatment of packaging waste and sets specific targets.
The directive reads: "The member states must introduce systems for the return and/or collection of used packaging to attain the following targets: ...no later than December 31, 2008 (Malta: December 31, 2013) 60% as a minimum by weight of packaging waste will be recovered or incinerated at waste incineration plants with energy recovery; ...no later than December 31, 2008 (Malta: December 31, 2013) between 55 and 80% by weight of packaging waste will be recycled; no later than December 31, 2008 (Malta: December 31, 2013) the following recycling targets for materials contained in packaging waste must be attained: 60% by weight for glass, 60% by weight for paper and board, 50% by weight for metals, 22.5% by weight for plastics and 15% by weight for wood. The incineration of waste at plants with energy recovery is regarded as a means of realising these objectives."
The directive can be found at: http://www.europa.eu.int/scadplus/leg/en/lvb/l21207.htm
While WasteServ is correct in stating that targets have to be reached, the directive clearly gives the option of reaching these targets by waste incineration at plants with energy recovery.
My argument is not that recycling as such is a bad thing, just the contrary. I was one of the foremost advocates when Germany introduced waste separation and recycling more than 20 years ago.
But experience in Germany shows that it lacks popular support, it does not make financial sense, and ecologically it is nonsense, since recycling uses up to three times as much energy as 'conservative' production, not to mention the sheer amount of water the consumer needs to clean every piece of packing, so that the recycling plant can really make use of it.
Dr Ciantar gave figures of collected material. However no mention is made of how valuable the waste inside the containers was, how much of this waste was recycled, and at what cost. Why not learn from others' experience instead of making the same mistake? Just because a strategy was agreed upon in 2001, it does not mean that we cannot do better.