Italian trash incineration in Amsterdam will impact Dutch air quality, experts say

Starting this month, AEB in Amsterdam will incinerate waste imported from Italy. An environmental win, globally considered. But it will mean CO2 emissions in the Netherlands. Those emissions can be halved if plastic is removed from the Italian waste, according to a study by ABN Amro, AD reports.

Waste that Italy would have dumped in landfills around Rome will now be used as raw material for energy production for Amsterdam companies and households. A train with 900 tons of household waste will travel from Rome to the AEB incinerators every week.

Dumping waste produces a lot of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Incinerating it releases CO2, which is bad for the environment, but less harmful than the emissions from landfills. But the environmental gain will only benefit the Italians. They are freed from their methane-producing waste. In Amsterdam, the waste incineration will cause CO2 and nitrogen emissions.

“We look at the environmental benefits at an international level,” a spokesperson for AEB told AD. She stressed that AEB remains within the standards for CO2 emissions and would be incinerating waste for power generation anyway. Importing waste from Italy “allows us to run the installation as efficiently as possible.” AEB stressed that the Italian waste does not lead to more CO2 emissions – the total amount of waste it incinerates is not increasing.

According to a study by ABN Amro, the CO2 emissions from burning Italian waste could be more than halved if the plastic waste were filtered out. “Italian waste contains an average of 13 percent plastic waste,” ABN Amro analyst David Boscher said. “That plastic accounts for more than half of the CO2 emissions from the incineration of waste.”

AEB can’t remove the plastic itself as its separation installation is already running at full speed. “And in Italy, they don’t have a separation plant for plastic waste,” Bolscher said.

Such a plant is easy to set up, but the problem is that recycling plastic is not profitable. Recycled plastic is much more expensive than newly produced plastic. So without a subsidy or legal obligations to use recycled plastic, it seems unlikely that reuse will get off the ground, Bolscher said.

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