Are your recycling quotas for municipal solid waste still accepted by the EU?

Ensure early certainty through EU-compliant monitoring …

by Dr.-Ing. Bertram Zwisele

In order to truly compare recycling rates for MSW, it is important to also take a look at the methodologies underlying the calculation of the rate.  The following article aims to harmonize the calculation within the countries of the European Union and beyond. The article shows the basic approach which methodology can be chosen according to the requirements of the EU Directive and how, based on this, the recycling quota is calculated in compliance with the Directive.
With the Waste Framework Directive (ARRL), the European Commission not only sets the new recycling targets for municipal waste...
from 2025 to 55% / from 2030 to 60% / from 2035 to 65%
... but it also provides the orientation for the calculation of a recycling quota in conformity with the directive.
On the basis of a method already successfully introduced for an EU country and the implementation based on it, the following work steps are proposed:
-    - an inventory / data collection,
-    - an evaluation of the EU legal requirements and
-    - a detailed analysis of the municipal waste stream.
1. Clarify how the collection of the quotas is done in your country (collection before or after the primary treatment facilities for MSW).
2. Description of how waste is accounted for today
3. Description of the main material flows and treatment steps

Evaluation of the EU legal requirements

In the EU-legal evaluation, the following key statements crystallized, which are of importance for an evaluation in conformity with the Directive:
  • Define municipal waste according to EAV key.
  • Clarify the classification of packaging. According to subchapter 15 01, these are only to be assigned to municipal waste if they originate from households or are similar in nature and composition to packaging from households. This will lead to considerable classification problems. Corresponding proposals to take this change into account are to be developed and integrated into the method proposal.  
  • There are two options for determining the quotas
    • on the basis of the output of the sorting/processing plants and/or  
    • on the basis of the input to the final recycling.
The output-based survey of recycling quantities can be carried out with the help of so-called standard loss rates. This involves estimating, on the basis of studies and expert opinions, the amount of waste that is withdrawn from recycling in further pretreatment processes. However, the use of standard loss rates is strictly limited and should only be applied in cases where reliable data cannot be obtained by other means.

Detailed analysis of the municipal waste stream (Description of the main MSW material flows and treatment steps)
Probably the careful analysis of the existing data collection (inventory) shows that a classification and traceability of the domestic MSW can best be achieved by considering plant-specific material flows. For this reason, it is advisable to subdivide the entire municipal waste stream into relevant material streams such as paper, glass, household waste, etc., and to investigate this on the basis of specific plant types. As a rule, the problems identified in the inventory can be narrowed down in this way and translated into an implementable method for calculating recycling quantities or quotas that comply with the directive. To establish these material flow-specific considerations, the output data from waste treatment plants collected by the state's statistics authority must be used or data integrated in the respective organizational form must be queried.
In the attached proposal, a total of 13 material flows from the input into a primary treatment facility to the exit of the waste stream into the final recycling are presented in flow diagrams and described and evaluated with regard to the specifics.
In this way, each material flow can be assessed as to whether, and to what extent, traceability is ensured and what loss rates may have to be worked with. With this detailed analysis, the basis for the development of the new collection method can be created. The detailed material flow investigations show that the output-based approach, with the help of estimates and assumptions for standard loss rates, is a justifiable and also for the stakeholders reasonable approach for a method proposal. The problem of traceability and losses due to further treatment steps can be solved satisfactorily.
On the basis of the preliminary work described, a calculation method for determining directive-compliant recycling quantities or quotas can be developed for the respective country-specific waste statistics.
It is also EU-compliant to estimate sub-areas, such as the material flow of old electrical appliances or the home composting of bio-waste, and to include them in the quota.

It is of great importance for the correct determination of the recycling quantity,
  • that the distinction between the treatment categories "delivery for recovery in waste disposal facilities" and "delivery to direct recyclers" is understood and correctly reported by the reporting agents. Here in particular, an increase in data quality can be expected through improved instructions and more intensive data checking.
  • that in principle all inputs and outputs of treatment facilities should be reported, in particular also outputs for direct recycling ("to others"), even if they are products/raw materials according to the "end-of-waste classification").
These quantities can (with the future determination methodology) make an important contribution to the achievement of recycling targets and would need to be reported accordingly.
Determination of recycling quantities for individual MSW waste types based on inputs to primary treatment facilities is only allowed in individual exemptions, taking into account standard loss rates, such as biological treatment of separately collected organic waste.
See link to:
Final Report to the Project Implementation of New Regulations for Statistics in European Waste Law FKZ: UM17333080 (selected chapters)

published: , 6|2022
Keywords: Methods, Analyses, Data