Across Europe, rising public awareness, eco-taxes and both national and EU legislation are driving national waste management strategies in favour of pre-treatment of MSW and away from the traditional methods such as direct landfilling. This is diverting waste into higher cost and added-value segments of the waste management market.

The most relevant pre-treatment in most countries of Europe is thermal treatment, fuelling demand for waste to energy plants, says F&S.

The key market characteristic highlighted by F&S includes the ongoing consolidation of the market as a result of merger and acquisition activities. The sporadic and inconsistent nature of demand, frequently causing problems relating to fixed costs for technology suppliers, which rely on this industry for revenues, is a further factor typifying the market.

Other issues affecting the marketplace include restricted opportunities for price increases due to the fierce nature of competition in the marketplace, combined with regional problems of over-supply.

A total of approximately 40 million tonnes of MSW was thermally treated in Europe in 1998 in a total of around 295 waste to energy plants. This value is expected to rise to almost 62.8 million tonnes during the period 1999 to 2006, with the total installed plant base expected to rise to 474.

Louise Pitts, Research Manager at Frost & Sullivan, says that national bans on landfill without pre-treatment, along with clamp-downs on illegal practices, rising waste volumes and increasing personal consumption are all factors expected to drive the market into the new millennium.

F&S estimates the combined value of the European market for waste to energy plants at $373.6 million for 1999. This follows a period of healthy activity in the market, with more than 20 plants being commissioned each year between 1996 and 1999. The market was particularly buoyant throughout this period in Germany, France and the Benelux region.

F&S expects healthy opportunities in the short and medium term, before the market experiences a slight decline to $309.7 million in 2006.

The grate (mass burn) market has accounted for the majority of revenues year on year over the period 1996 to 1999, accounting for 62 out of a total of 67 waste to energy plants commissioned during the period up to the end of 1998.

Subsequently, however, although the grate market is expected to remain strong, it will encounter rising competition from the remaining two segments. The fluidised bed systems market, for example, is expected to be driven by increasing instances of waste separation, thus creating readily available RDF, which is the favoured fuel type of fluidised bed combustion plants.

Meanwhile, the pyrolysis and gasification market, is expected to be driven mainly by technological development. With such technologies being widely used for the treatment of biomass and other fuels, the experience is increasingly being leveraged into the MSW industry and, in 1999, the market is close to taking off.

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