ISWA Insight Bulletin

Issue 5, December 2013

A joint European and African Research & Innovation Agenda on Waste Management

A Report by Managing Director Hermann Koller

I attended this high-level conference “A joint European and African Research & Innovation Agenda on Waste Management – Economic Opportunities on Turning Waste into a Resource” held in Brussels on 25th November 2013.


The conference brought together stakeholders and experts from Industry, Research and Academia and Governmental bodies from Africa and Europe, in order to tackle issues related to waste management to explore the potential economic opportunities from the collaboration between Africa and Europe in moving up the waste hierarchy.


This one day conference was intended to stimulate networking of stakeholders, share experience and knowledge on existing and potential research and innovation initiatives and business cases and enhance cooperation and partnerships in the joint challenges of waste management and recovery of raw materials.


With around 150 participants from 28 African and European countries I found this event very fruitful and I was very pleased that also concrete projects were identified.


The conference ended with a final declaration highlighting the opportunity for Africa-EU cooperation on a common innovation agenda on waste management and recovery of raw materials.

ISWA/VKU WEEE Beacon Conference, Dusseldorf, Germany

A Report by Past President Jeff Cooper, WG on Recycling & Waste Minimisation


The first ISWA Beacon Conference in Germany was organised jointly with the German ISWA national member VKU in Dusseldorf on 14 and 15 November 2013 on the theme of Optimising Collection and Recycling of WEEE. The conference was timely with the introduction of revised WEEE Directive due to come into force in February 2014. The conference was comprehensive in its coverage of the issues starting with extension of EEE lifetimes through repair and re-use with consideration of optimising the collection of WEEE to ensure re-use or even to ensure that consumers recycle rather than dispose of their small WEEE items in the bin but also ensuring that treatment and recycling facilities are of a good standard and with the new Directive’s aims outlined by the European Commission.


Maria Banti from DG Env at the European Commission outlined the main changes to the WEE Directive focusing on the new targets for 2016 and 2019, the tighter provisions for retail take-back and exports of re-usable EEE and also outlined studies to introduce future changes for standards for treatment of WEEE.


Kyle Wiens the Executive Director of IFIXIT, with a superb presentation, outlined how he came to set up his business for the repair of electronic and electrical equipment. His original business model was the 1970s car maintenance and repair manuals published by Haynes adapted for the electronics sector, especially PCs and laptops on the assumption that anyone with a dead computer would not have internet access.  However, Kyle Wiens soon discovered that anyone who owns a PC has access to a least one other device so he therefore now uses the internet exclusively for the repair manuals with completely open access.  Indeed the open access web-site is a now an electronics Wikipedia so that Kyle Wiens has often found there is equipment he thought was not covered was indeed on the web-site.  Nevertheless, printed versions are still important, as he found in China where the manual for one popular PC had been translated and printed in Chinese.


So how does the IFIXIT business make money?  There are several ways, including: sales of tools for repair of most electronic equipment, mainly involving the opening of cases of electronic equipment, running training courses on repairs and the provision of spare parts, mainly from the recovery of spare parts from WEEE.  Therefore there are thousands of followers who have set up businesses based on the guidance and tool kits supplied through IFIXIT.


There are many thousands of small items of WEEE that are being discarded rather than repaired or even new items that are binned rather than sent for recovery.  One of the challenges for EU MSs in reaching WEEE collection targets and therefore for municipalities too is therefore collecting the increasing proportion of WEEE items that fall into the category of small WEEE.  A variety of approaches were examined during the conference, including Steven Didsbury, head of waste services for the London Borough of Bexley, who showed what was being delivered throughout London, particularly the use of on-street collection containers for small WEEE items pioneered by Bexley but now most successful in the central London borough of Westminster. 


Another approach to the collection of small WEEE items was described by Wil Sijstermans, General Manager of the waste management company RD4 which services 9 councils in SE Limburg next to the German border.  RD4’s approach was through the provision of yellow bags for the door to door collection of books, electrical and electronic goods, toys and textiles with the primary aim for re-use if possible.  Following a pilot project in 2012 the scheme has been rolled-out throughout the whole of the RD4 service area and for 2014 the company hopes to collect 850 tonnes of material, including 300 tonnes of small WEEE items.  These bags will be collected every other month and sorted by people receiving social welfare payments and after checking the items will be sold through the company’s re-use shops.


One of the main issues examined during the conference was the possibility of reaching the future 45% and 65% targets but before that are all countries even hitting the existing 4kg pp pa target?  Professor Katia Lasaridi from the Geography Department of Harokopio University, Athens and the former Director of Greece’s Extended Producer Responsibility systems looked at both the existing and future targets.  She showed that in Greece purchases of EEE over the past few years have declined rapidly from a 2007 total of 19.1kg pp pa down to 9.6kg pp pa in 2012, a trend more extreme than the reduction of Greece’s GDP.  Despite the large number of different types of WEEE collection points:  municipalities with 4,300, scrap dealers 700, B2B 1,500 and 3,300 retailers less WEEE is now being generated, partly because consumers are not replacing their EEE products but also because the informal sector is now diverting waste away from the official WEEE collection points. Therefore this WEEE is not being recognised in the official collection statistics and in consequence Greece’s WEEE recovery rate has declined from 5.7kg pp pa in 2009 down to 4.02kg a year later a mere 3.25kg in 2012 and these trends are likely to continue over the next three years.


So what will happen in the future when the targets are adjusted to reflect sales for the previous three years?  Provided that Greece comes out of recession by 2016 then because the 45% target is based on EEE sales over the previous three years Greece should be in a reasonable position to reach the new target.


The loss of WEEE from collection facilities affects most EU countries, even Germany.  Thomas Rummler from the Ministry of Environment described Germany’s system of shared producer responsibility for WEEE and some of the issues which will need to be addressed with the forthcoming WEEE II Directive.  The state has effectively empowered a private company to run a clearing house that registers EEE producers, arranges the transfer of WEEE from designated collection facilities to treatment facilities and collates statistics from producers and WEEE facilities.


Dr Rummler noted that after 8 years all municipalities had collection containers for all five WEEE categories and that 70-80% of WEEE comes through those municipal collection facilities.  However, there is hi-jacking of WEEE before delivery to collection facilities.  Some of the ways in which this diversion is undertaken was later outlined by Norbert Zonneveld, the Managing Director of the European Electronics Recyclers Association.  These included Eastern European entrepreneurs taking WEEE from residents queuing to deliver materials to recycling centres, collecting WEEE before it can be collected by municipal monthly on-street bulky waste collections and the informal sector offering free collection of waste from households - a range of techniques that are being experienced by most EU MSs.


Detail about the movement of WEEE and UEEE from the older EU states to the newer Eastern EU states was further provided through two linked presentation by Ulrike Lange of the Technical University of Dresden and Dr Gudrun Obersteiner from BOKU, Vienna.  Much of the exported WEEE/UEEE ends up in flea markets in Poland, Hungary and Romania.  Gudrun Obersteiner described the assessment of the WEEE/UEEE flows from Austria to Hungary where, with the assistance of the border police, 3,000 movements of this material were examined in detail.  From this it was calculated that around 100,000 tpa of WEEE/UEEE was being transported to Hungary, more than the 64,000 tpa going through the Austrian formal collection systems. 


Dr Rummler also noted “the need to optimise quality” through a whole range of aspects of the WEEE system, particularly to encourage preparation for re-use of WEEE, better treatment to maximise recovery of existing material flows and also to try to obtain critical raw materials from WEEE, although deciding which are the most critical will be difficult.  Also what should happen to the new items affected by the WEEE II Directive, such as PV panels and LED lamps, especially in municipal designated collection facilities, where currently there is no provision.


One of the major problems in Germany is the fact that the potential for re-use from its WEEE collection systems, far worse than even the UK with an estimated 8.2% of WEEE going through to be re-used, albeit this might well be through export.  The German municipal collection system does not encourage the potential re-use of WEEE because for each waste stream except for fluorescent tubes allows consumers to dump their WEEE into skips, something all too common in many EU MSs, however.  Then following collection, transport and  delivery to a treatment facility inevitably the WEEE is not in a state to be re-used and even recycling of items becomes more difficult.  Therefore only 0.8% of WEEE in Germany is sent for re-use. 


Germany is unlikely to implement WEEE II on time. One of the reasons is how far the regulations will affect retailers with the new requirement over take-back, particularly the opt-out provision whereby retailers can opt out of the obligation to take-back WEEE from consumers if there are alternative facilities “at least as effective”.  There will continue to be the opportunity for German municipalities to take control of one or more WEEE streams, something which the UK will be permitting under the 2013 WEEE Regulations.


The problems that this was causing in Germany was exemplified by Norbert Zonneveld who showed that there was a progressive increase in municipalities taking responsibility for the marketing of large domestic appliances in order to maximise their income from this material.  Norbert Zonneveld stressed that this meant that there was a danger that the WEEE was not accounted for in statistics and there was no guarantee that the treatment facility to which the WEEE was consigned would be working to a recognised standard.  In response Dr Mark Lindert who is the environmental manager for the City of Dusseldorf stated that the city sent its WEEE to the Remondis treatment plant and reported the tonnages to the clearing house.  Nevertheless Norbert Zonneveld stressed that in future all treatment plants ought to be managed in accordance with the new CENELEC standard and this ought to be the standard which the EU Commission and national regulators use to determine that overseas treatment facilities are working with in order to preclude sub-standard treatment outside the EU.


Although there was little discussion of the issue of exports of WEEE/UEEE to developing countries at the conference there was recognition that this was still a pertinent issue for both regulators in MSs and more specifically for the recipient countries.  Present at the conference there were several representatives from Zoomlion, the main waste collection and treatment company in Ghana and other West African delegates, who wondered what the EU was doing in order to support the states to which EU WEEE was being exported? As several of the speakers explained there is considerable difficulty is combatting the export of WEEE under the guise of re-usable EEE.  However, the EU Commission and several regulatory authorities of MSs have and will continue to provide support for the regulation authorities responsible for monitoring imports of UEEE into Ghana and other African countries.  However, there is an onus on the exporting countries to ensure that extended producer responsibility on potential UEEE exports ensures that we are guided by ethical considerations, as emphasised by Professor Ian Williams in the concluding discussion session of the conference. 


Presentations are accessible through


SNU International Symposium on Waste-to-Energy

1st SNU International Symposium on Waste-to-Energy
ISWA Managing Director Hermann Koller at SNU

A Report by Managing Director Hermann Koller

On the 20th of November, 83 experts from 8 different countries gathered in Seoul to attend the 1st SNU International Symposium on Waste-to-Energy, which was organised by the Graduate Program on Waste to Energy at Seoul National University (Director, Dr. Jae Young Kim) and sponsored by the Korea Ministry of Environment and the Korea Environmental Industry and Technology Institute.


Through video conferencing systems additionally some 20 students from the Mongolian University of Science in Ulaanbaatar and Technology and the Kyung Hee University in Seoul participated in the sessions.


The objective of the symposium was to bring together domestic and foreign experts with the aim to share knowledge and thoughts on waste-to-energy and in this context the different national approaches to reach a zero waste society. I was invited to give a speech on efficient waste management focusing on separate collection and waste to energy in cities on the example of Vienna.


Keynote speech was addressed by Professor Emeritus Tae Hak Chung from the Seoul National University, overlooking the current status of waste-to-energy in Korea.


A variety of information and views on waste-to-energy beyond national borders presented by additional four speeches and 12 poster presentations were enough to trigger discussions among participants and keep them lively within a day.

XIII International Congress for the Final Disposal of Wastes, Pereira, Colombia

A Report by Derek Greedy, Chair of the Working Group on Landfill


The XIII International Congress for the Final Disposal of Wastes was held in Pereira Colombia from 25th to 27th September 2013.  Among the invited International speakers was Derek Greedy, Chair of the Landfill Working group, and Jan-Gerd Kuhling , Chair of the Heathcare Working Group.  The Conference attracted over 538 registered participants from Latin and Central America.   Over the 2.5 days there were 23 oral presentations to the main conference and 5 were presented at one parallel session.


There were presentations on the treatment of waste electronic and electrical equipment as well as healthcare, energy from waste, alternative technologies, hazardous waste and legislation.


Clearly disposal remains the order of the day and as Chair of the Landfill Working Group I was delighted to see much progress being made in the move away from the open dump towards the engineered landfill which was clearly demonstrated when visiting the La Glorita landfill site.  It is understood that there are over 700 disposal sites in Colombia but only around 20 of these are sanitary (engineered) landfills.  However there were token gestures being made towards recycling and, dare it be said, even mention of waste being a resource.   Despite this, for now, disposal remains the prime objective.


It was interesting to note that Pereira had an ambition to be a zero waste city and was reporting something like 30% recycling but this was mainly through the informal sector.  Like many developing economies the waste stream contains around 65% of organics which clearly gives the potential for composting.


Alongside the event there was a small exhibition with some very interesting exhibits.  The one that sticks very much in the memory is the conversion of “tetrapak” to a whole host of different end products ranging from disposable plates from the cardboard to place mats laminated with the metals and plastics.


What was so pleasing about the whole event was the vibrancy that surrounded it.  There was a clear wish to learn from worldwide experiences and hence the strong international representation.


ISWA European Group Meeting September 2013

A Report by Past President Jeff Cooper, WG on Recycling & Waste Minimisation


The European Group of ISWA met in Brussels hosted by the European and Economic and Social Committee on 3 and 4 September 2013 with representatives from 17 European countries and with 13 presentations.  Inevitably therefore, this brief report can only highlight just a few of the issues discussed.


The second day was devoted to the Consultation on the Review of the European Waste Management Targets, the consultation deadline having now finished on 9 September.  With a presentation from Michel Sponar from the Waste Section of the European Commission’s DG Environment on the background to the consultation paper so that participants were able to fully appreciate the context of the consultation. 


Michel Sponar said that this wide ranging review of targets was prompted by a number of factors, including:

The review of targets already required by three of the Directives

The objectives of the 7th Environmental Action Programme

The aims of the Roadmap on Resource Efficiency


Therefore after the consultation closes on 9 September the Commission will examine the responses, list potential options and make an impact assessment with a view to introducing legislative proposals in mid-2014.  The technical results of the Impact Assessment are expected to be with the Commission in March 2014.  The Impact Assessment will examine:

Employment opportunities

New economic activities

Safe access to raw materials

GHG reductions

Air quality (indirect)

Marine litter reduction


There is some doubt as to whether any proposed legislation will be presented to the current Parliament and Commissioner or to the next one after the 2014 European Parliamentary elections.  There will also be supporting action by the European Environment Agency in modelling the potential effects of the proposed actions.


M Sponar noted that there were several MSs that had reached or exceeded the targets set under EU legislation but even more lagging well behind the requirements of environmental Directives, especially the biodegradable waste diversion targets set under the Landfill Directive, even taking account of the 14 of 28 MSs that benefit from the 4 year derogation.  Nevertheless, from the Commission’s assessment on progress to fulfilling the aims of the Recycling Thematic Strategy in 2012 it was estimated there were 9-16 MSs currently expected to reach the 50% recycling target in 2020 for MSW set under the Waste Framework Directive.       


Picking up on issue that has been discussed on the consultation on the Green paper on plastics waste and in the meeting answering a question about what should Europe do to curb the loss of plastic waste resources to China and to utilise it in Europe, M Sponar noted that in the context of the circular economy as China was now the manufacturing workshop of the World it was natural to send plastics waste back to China to complete the circuit. 


One of the issues raised was what the Commission might propose to improve statistics. One question was the definition of MSW (municipal solid waste) to which M Sponar responded that it might come down to “the least worst option” meaning “what municipalities are collecting”.  This definition which the UK fought to use for many years was ultimately recognised as not acceptable in the context of other countries wider definition.


The proposal for setting a maximum level for energy from waste in the hierarchy was raised with M Sponar suggesting that what the Commission might decide was to adopt a pragmatic approach, not setting a maximum level for EfW but preferring to set higher recycling targets and therefore EfW will provide probably the main option for treating residual waste in MSs.


As for phasing out of landfill, in his presentation M Sponar had given an example of 10% as being perhaps a limit on the amounts of waste that should be allowed to be landfilled by MSs in the longer-term future.  He also noted that MSs would need a clear definition of residual waste that could be landfilled.    


The topic of landfill was uppermost in participants thoughts during the first session on the Waste hierarchy, how to move up the hierarchy: - difficulties, challenges, efforts and successes.  There were examples from four Baltic states: Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and in contrast Sweden.


Andrzej Tonderski, the Executive Director of POMCERT (Pomerian Centre for Environmental Research and Technology described the changes that had recently been introduced in order to improve municipal waste management in Poland.  Under the Accession Treaty of 2003 Poland agreed to reduce landfill and increase recycling and specifically the country has to reach the packaging waste targets by the end of 2014 and like the UK has to reduce its biodegradable waste going to landfill to 50% of the 1995 levels in 2013.  To date Poland has made little progress in progressing up the waste hierarchy.


One of the main problems has been the fact that until 1 July 2013 municipalities did not have “ownership” of waste and therefore it was impossible to arrange tenders for the collection of household waste. Now many municipalities are combining their forces and are letting contracts, including under PPP arrangements.



Jolia Kruopiene, Associate Professor and senior researcher from the Kaunas University of Technology looked at the changes in waste management in Lithuania, a small country with 65,302km2 and with a population of 3 million and 60 municipalities.  Like Poland and Estonia it joined the EU in 2004 and when it had more than 800 landfills. Also in common with those countries in 2004 there was limited coverage of waste collections. That has changed so that “now close to 95% overall” of households are served by waste collection services with 97% in towns which means that in very rural areas they are dependent on their own resources.  In consequence “burning of waste is common”.


The recovery of waste from households is through container bank facilities although there are now 70,000 containers for source separation at households. Buy-back centres also exist for the purchase of clean segregated wastes from any source.  There are no deposit systems for beverage containers, although a lot of discussion is taking place to decide whether Lithuania should introduce them.   CA sites - a strange British contribution to the global lexicon of waste terms - are provided as a free of charge facility on the British model.


In 2011 of Lithuania’s MSW 79% was landfilled, 2% composted and 19% recycled so the country still has a considerable way to go to reach EU requirements.  Of the landfills only 11 reach EU standards and Lithuania has used EU structural funding to close old landfills but the new ones are filling quickly so alternative options are urgently needed.  The country’s first EfW facility was opened in 2013 with an output of 20MW of electrical power and 50MW of heat for district heating, despite considerable public opposition.  Future planned facilities will be equally difficult to plan for and develop for this reason.  A new national waste plan for Lithuania is currently under preparation.



 Harri Moora, Environmental Management Programme Director at the Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre of the Estonian Institute for Sustainable Development had a rather more impressive story to relate regarding Estonia’s progress with its waste management planning over the last 10 years since accession to the EU.  Perhaps one advantage it has is its small size, only 45,100km2 with around population of 1.3 million but 220 municipalities.  There is, however, one major waste related issue faced by Estonia in that it has decided to exploit its oil shale resources for its main energy source for the future.  Therefore most of Estonia’s 20 million tpa of waste is industrial waste, the residue of the oil shale processing industry and mostly hazardous.   


Harri Moora stated that there had been too many new landfills planned and constructed because Estonia now only needed one of the five currently operating.  However, because they had been built they now provide competition for other options as the companies that run them keep gate fees low to encourage municipalities to send waste to them rather than elsewhere, despite landfill tax at €20 per tonne and rising at €4 each year producing gate fees at around €65.  Nevertheless, Estonia shows at a regional level what can be achieved by establishing alternative treatment facilities for waste so that while in 2010 landfill accounted for 65% of MSW disposal in Estonia in 2012 it declined to less than 50% and in 2013 less than 10% is expected to be landfilled.


The competition to landfill comes from MBT and EfW.  There are two MBT plants, operated by Veolia and Ragn-Sells, that are producing rdf for the Estonian cement kilns.  However, the plants which was based on German designs are having to deal with the greater organic composition of Estonian MSW.  Therefore only 40% of the waste can be converted to rdf, with the middle fraction requiring incineration but the fines are too contaminated to be converted into compost and it is therefore landfilled.


The main competitor for the MBT facilities is the sole Estonian EfW plant, which has a capacity of 225,000 tpa but has yet to reach that despite the gate fee at only €20-25 per tonne.



On the other side of the Baltic Sea Sweden is one of the six MSs as exemplars of waste management cited by Michel Sponar, the others being Austria, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium.  Sweden is different to the other Baltic States with a huge land area (450,000km2) and with a population of 9.4 million. 


Hakan Rylander, who is the Convenor of the ISWA European Group, is CEO of Sysav, the second largest of Sweden’s inter-municipal waste management companies serving 14 municipalities, noted that it had taken Sweden more than 20 years to get to the position where in 2012 landfill accounted for only 0.7% of MSW and with 51.6% EfW, 15.3% bio-treatment and 32.3% materials recycling, compared to respectively 62%, 30%, 2% and 6% in 1975.  During that period 1975-2012 the amount of MSW increased by 25% with expectation that in the period 2010-2030 the amount of MSW in Sweden will double.  In contrast, as was pointed out later in the question session the UK has experienced a fall of waste generation of 2.5% a year for the past 5 years and waste prevention now has a higher political profile.


The main mechanism for Sweden’s success in waste management was having achievable targets with clear plans for implementation.  Therefore Sweden introduced a landfill ban on burnable wastes in 2000 and two years later a ban on organic waste going to landfill, albeit with local exemptions allowed by the Swedish EPA.  The current waste-related target introduced in 2010 Sweden is to ensure that 50% of households have food waste collections by 2018 with the waste going to AD facilities, often to produce bio-gas to fuel busses, refuse compaction vehicles and even cars of municipal employees. 


Less successful has been the introduction of EPR in 1994 covering packaging waste and newspapers because this is arranged by industry with the municipalities just providing sites for bring containers.  The municipalities claim that the sites are inadequately serviced and attract fly-tipping and have long fought for the right to service the containers and undertake initial transport of the materials arguing that the quantity and quality of the materials would be raised and thereby offset any increased costs for servicing which would be borne by producers, who vehemently oppose such a proposed change.  There is currently a proposal along these lines with the Swedish government but previous pleas for these changes have been blocked by industry.


Therefore, even in the best MSs there will always be the potential to enhance waste management systems in order to recover further resources from our waste.


5th Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference and Expo

5th Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference and Expo
Luis Marinheiro, Rachael Williams and Derek Greedy at the 5th Australian Landfill and Transfer Stations Conference and Expo

A Report by Derek Greedy, Chair of the Working Group on Landfill

As Chair of the ISWA Landfill Working Group and member of the organising committee I was invited to give the opening keynote address to the 5th Australian Landfill and Transfer Station Conference and Expo held from 7-9 August on the Gold Coast of Australia. Nearly 400 participants attended the 4 day event which included a full day landfill gas workshop with over 80 participants, a field day with technical tours and the 2 day conference.


Luis Marinheiro, an active member of the landfill working group, also gave a keynote presentation.


The 2 technical tours had a standard theme visiting landfills, transfer stations and re-use/recycling shops.  The Ti Tree bioenergy landfill, a joint venture between Veolia Environment and J J Richards was of particular interest as it was seeking to maximise landfill gas generation through leachate recirculation.  It currently has 3 1MW landfill gas engines of which only 2 are currently operating and receives around 450,000 tonnes of waste per annum.


The field day, a series of outside exhibits and demonstrations, was opened by Queensland’s Minister for Environment Andrew Powell who in his address made it abundantly clear that, for Queensland and potentially for Australia as a whole, landfill had a key role to play in the management of waste. Music to the ear of the Chair of the ISWA landfill working group!


A major theme of the Conference and particularly the landfill gas workshop was the carbon tax introduced in July 2012 and the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI).  A matter covered in the conference opening address of Steven Ciobo, currently an opposition member of Parliament, who made it very clear that if the Coalition were to win the election called for September that the carbon tax legislation would be quickly repealed.  What it would be replaced by was uncertain but clearly it would need to be replaced by something to maintain which would otherwise be lost revenue.


The conference ran as two parallel sessions with a range of interesting themes which included planning for and around essential infrastructure, innovation in design and operations, e-waste recovery, the evolution of transfer stations and coping with extremes.