Following the fate of waste – but should paper be recycled or burnt?

Paper should be incinerated rather than recycled, say Danish researchers, where burning paper would benefit the Danish economy. Across Europe, a new waste regulation requires EU countries to collect, analyse and report on waste data.

Although Danish politicians have set targets to recycle 60% of household paper and cardboard and 75% from businesses, Denmark’s Environmental Assessment Institute (IMV) says that recycling paper is not necessarily the best alternative for the environment or the economy.

The country would be better served by burning paper collected for recycling, which would generate 10 million Danish krona because the market price for paper is lower than that for coal, according to IMV’s calculations. In terms of benefiting the environment, paper incineration, a carbon dioxide neutral process, would reduce CO2 emissions otherwise generated from coal, says IMV.

European paper industry group CEPI recently argued against EU regulations on solid recovered fuels that would encourage the burning of paper rather than recycling it (see related story).

A separate report sets the starting date for new EU regulations requiring statistics to be collected on waste generation and disposal. The statistics will be used to track the use of resources and establish whether waste prevention is being implemented.

From the start of next year, countries will have to carry out surveys and statistical analyses on the fate of waste from businesses and households. Firms with fewer than ten employees will be excluded from surveys unless they generate large amounts of waste. By the end of 2004, countries will have to have collected the first set of data and by 2007, the European Commission will have to present a compilation of statistics to the European Parliament and Council.

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