Legal advice to the European waste industry has concluded that energy from waste (EfW) can be counted as a sustainable economic activity.

FEAD, the European federation of waste management and environmental services, sought advice from consultancy PwC as it wished to clarify the technique’s status under the EU Sustainable Investment Regulation, which came into force on 12 July. 

The analysis concluded that a distinction must be made between incineration for disposal and incineration for energy recovery (known as ‘R1’ under the regulation’s classification system), and that R1 status was consistent with the circular economy while also fulfilling other environmental objectives, as long as it complied with the waste hierarchy. 

R1 status is given when an incinerator is efficient enough to be classed as ‘recovery’ and not just ‘disposal’.

FEAD said this meant that recovering energy from non-recyclable waste must be regarded as an environmentally sustainable economic activity. 

President Peter Kurth said: “By diverting non-recyclable, residual waste from landfilling, by ensuring its environmentally sound treatment, and by avoiding the use of fossil fuels, EfW under the R1 criteria is a key activity to more recycling and to saving CO2 emissions. The legal analysis is in line with the facts.” 

The regulation aims to put environmental, social and governance considerations at the heart of the financial system and of green investment decisions, FEAD said.