The state of the art gives an overall picture of the state of waste management in the European Union, in line with the main needs of public bodies in charge of municipal waste management identified within the PPI4Waste project. These needs have been identified by means of the methodology described in the deliverable D2.2: Report on Agreeing Common needs. Three of these needs are related to specific waste streams, bio-waste management, plastics separation, and bulky waste management, all targeted in the State of the Art.
In the context of a public procurement of innovation project, the state of the art (SoA) is designed as an orientation paper in order to facilitate meeting demand and offer and identify innovative solutions for municipal waste management.
According to the main findings of the SoA, in the majority of Member States, waste management is public, although some tasks are shared with private companies.
Table 1: Waste management responsibility (Source: CEWEP, 2012 and 2014)
In general terms there are broad differences between Member States regarding waste production, collection models and treatment techniques applied as well as regarding the implementation of European Directives on waste. In this context, management of bio-waste, plastic packaging and bulky waste are some of the main improvement areas addressed by European policies.
Bio-waste management is a key priority for European Commission; in fact the new Circular Economy package reinforces the call for Member States to take measures for appropriate bio-waste management, and in this way, to obtain quality compost and to contribute to the achievement of targets for dry materials (paper, metal, plastic and glass).
Improving municipal bio-waste management can reduce the GHG emissions by means of cutting direct emissions from waste management activities, mainly methane from landfills, as well as avoiding emissions through resource recovery (using waste as a secondary material or energy source) and replacing the use of virgin materials or fuels.
Fig. Net emissions (kg CO2-equivalent) per treatment option for one tonne of kitchen and garden waste. (Source: European Environment Agency, 2011).
An appropriate bio-waste management model that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable strongly depends on various local conditions, such as the distribution of production, the composition of waste, the climate and the potential use of products obtained from bio – waste treatment: methane, compost, electricity, heat, etc.
In this way, the major tendencies in innovation are related with new management models that will generate a stream of bio – waste with the minimum amount of improper waste and the development of technologies that enable the production of high value – added products.
In terms of management models, there is a tendency towards the development of centralized or decentralized models according to local characteristics, such as the distribution of producers, the existence of infrastructure, or the availability of other organic waste that can be jointly treated.
Regarding plastic packaging waste, several objectives for plastic waste recycling and recovery have been imposed in Europe since 1994 by legislative means, and they have served as drivers for innovation in separating, sorting, and recycling solutions. Due to the increase of the amount of plastic waste generation and its impact on environment, the emphasis on plastic remains a crucial aspect.
Increasing recovery rates by improving separation and sorting of plastic waste combined with increasing recycling rate would reduce the consumption of renewable and non-renewable natural resources for plastic production and would contribute to prevent other environmental issues such as marine litter.
Additionally, it is necessary to take into account the relatively recent emergence of bioplastics, which can complicate the management of plastic waste since that current waste treatment systems are not designed to separate effectively bioplastics from petroleum-based plastics.
In the field of plastic collection, although the complete separate collection of plastic packaging waste provides better results in subsequent recycling, there is a tendency towards collection schemes where plastic waste is collected commingled with metal and/or multilayer packaging, in a separate stream from other recyclables or collection schemes, where plastic waste is collected as part of a dry recyclable stream which contains other types of recyclable.
On the other hand, technologies based on near infrared spectroscopy, colorimetry techniques and visible spectrum techniques are being developed and implemented in recovery facilities combined with automation techniques in order to increase the separation of plastics.
Finally regarding bulky waste it is necessary to remark that there is not a common definition at European level; depending on the agency or country there are different meanings and descriptions . In general terms, waste is considered as bulky waste if it has any special physic characteristic and/or it requires a different collection method.
Bulky waste such as white goods waste, mattresses and furniture turned into waste are covered by the European list of waste as part of municipal solid waste. Although there is no specific European Directive on bulky waste, there are several objectives set under European legislation on waste which are applicable to generally bulky waste such as the objectives for recycling or preparation for reuse included in the Directive 2008/98/EC.
On the other hand, some members of the European Union are beginning to implement legislation concerning the management of bulky waste. This is the case of France, for example, which already regulates its furniture waste through the Decree nº 2012 – 22.
The increase in material recovery for recycling or re – use minimizes the depositing of bulky waste in landfills and this has a number of environmental benefits which results in increased efficiency of bulky waste management as well as the use of resources, reducing the amount of waste supported by the environment and a lower carbon footprint.
Considering the nature and size of bulky waste as well as its consideration as a part of solid urban waste, its management can distort the ordinary management of household waste. In this regard, there is a clear trend among the Member States towards a management model, which permits the reuse of this type of waste or, where appropriate, the recycling.
Due to the complexity of the bulky waste collection, innovative systems are required. In this regard, they tend to management models that involve the residents themselves in the management of this waste, encouraging and promoting the delivery of waste to household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) or facilities for waste collection, without any cost for the user.