European industrial waste-to-energy market to more than double

A study looking at the future prospects of the European industrial and hazardous waste-to-energy market has predicted that the number of such plants will increase, and profit margins should improve.

The study, undertaken by Frost & Sullivan, acknowledges that the level of activity in the industrial and hazardous waste-to-energy market was relatively low in 1999 and that profits have been squeezed over the past few years. This situation is likely to change, according to the study, with sales reaching euros 114.6 million in 2006.

1999 revenue was just euros 44.2 million at 90 waste-to-energy plants.

In assessing the market, Frost & Sullivan evaluated only those plants treating more than 50% industrial or hazardous waste. The primary wastes undergoing waste-to-energy recovery are sewage, de-inking sludges, chemical and hazardous wastes and industrial solid wastes such as tyres.

The market in Germany is reaching saturation, according to the report, but Spanish and Portuguese markets could rise to the top in the next few years.

Frost & Sullivan identifies five “main restraining factors” on the market and has assessed how these factors may change in the future. They are:

  • historical reliance on landfill, which remains a cheaper option
  • failure to adopt fully EU waste directives
  • dumping of industrial and hazardous waste
  • incineration without energy recovery
  • waste reduction by industry

In terms of landfill, the study predicts that “bans on landfill without pre-treatment” will make waste-to-energy more competitive, but it also points out that failure to comply with existing European waste legislation has been a serious problem in several member states. France, Spain, Portugal and Italy are mentioned specifically as often failing to report accurately production quantities of industrial and hazardous wastes.

Prevalence of illegal waste dumping is also a factor working against the waste-to-energy sector, but Frost & Sullivan expects “pressure from the EC to deal with this problem … to increase in the next five years”.

Energy efficiency targets will make incineration without energy recovery less attractive, says the study’s author, who predicts that such plants will phased-out as they reach their end of life.

But industry’s efforts to reduce waste will increase in coming years and reductions will be achieved, says the reports.

Other market restraints are considered, with public opposition to waste-to-energy singled out as an issue that must be confronted and strategies developed to deal with it.

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