Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report

The Commission's Proposals

8. The proposed Directive would extend emission controls to processes at present outside the scope of the Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive, such as incineration of waste oil, solvents and clinical waste, as well as imposing controls on the incineration of non-hazardous, non-municipal wastes. It would also:

  • Tighten the existing emission limits for municipal waste incinerators (the main effects of this are illustrated in the box below);
  • introduce emission limits for plants which co-incinerate waste;
  • introduce limits on releases to water, to reduce the environmental impact of incineration; and
  • require that, so far as possible, heat generated in the incineration process is recovered and residues prevented, reduced or recycled.

9. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, Member States would be able to introduce stricter controls than those proposed, and to allow industry to use whichever techniques are most appropriate.

Comparison of air emission limits in proposed Waste Incineration Directive with emission limit values in the existing Municipal Waste Incineration Directive (89/369/EEC)
Substance (mg/Nm3)MWID (Note 1)Proposed WID (Note 2)
Suspended particulates (i.e. dust)3010 (Note 3)
Volatile organic compounds2010
Hydrogen chloride5010
Hydrogen fluoride21
Sulphur dioxide30050
Oxides of nitrogenNone200 (Note 4)
Dioxins and furansNone1x10-7
Notes: (1) ELVs as quoted in the Environment Agency's IPC Guidance Note S2 5.01.(2) ELV for daily average.(3) For cement kilns the proposed limit is 30 mg/Nm3. (4) For cement kilns the proposed limit is 800 mg/Nm3. (5) ELVs for heavy metals are not included in this table. In general, where ELVs already exist in the MWID, they would be reduced to a tenth of their current values.
For further details, see the table in the Environment Agency's supplementary written evidence of 30 March 1999 (p 45 and Table 1 in the evidence from Aspinwall and Company (p 137).

10. As regards the potential costs and benefits, the Commission, in its explanatory memorandum, suggests that, assuming outputs from other sources remain the same, the proposal would reduce the contribution made by waste incineration to the total output of mercury across the Community from 16% to 3%, and that there would be corresponding reductions for cadmium from 8% to 0.6%, and for dioxins and furans from 40% to 0.3%. It says there should also be substantial reductions in emissions of acid gases and particulates.

11. However, the Commission also notes that, because of the diversity and complexity of the waste incineration industry and the difficulties of placing a monetary value on the health effects of air pollution, any cost-benefit analysis, particularly for a specific regulatory measure, is subject to considerable uncertainty. Nevertheless, it reports that an economic assessment carried out in 1997 estimated that in net present value terms (discounted over 20 years using a rate of 8%) the additional cost throughout the Community of complying with the proposed air emission limits for municipal waste incinerators would be 4.2 billion euros, whilst the benefits were put at 6.5 billion euros, giving a net benefit of 2.3 billion euros. It says that further analyses of the implementation costs for sewage sludge incineration in net present value terms gave a net disbenefit of 131 million euros, whilst there would be a net benefit for clinical waste incineration of 290 million euros.

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