Waste-to-Energy has a positive influence on recycling rates. It is well known that the European Member States that have the highest rates of recycling also include Waste-to-Energy as an integral part of their waste management systems, and have lower rates of landfilling. Consequently, Member States with lower rates of recycling tend to have less Waste-to-Energy treatment and higher rates of landfilling. Please follow this [link] to a graph based on data from EUROSTAT (European Statistical office) where this can be seen.
As much waste as possible should be recycled. However, the quality of the sorted waste going to recycling should be such so that no dirty or polluted waste re-enters the new recycled material. The remaining waste which cannot be recycled in an environmentally or economically feasible way should be sent to Waste-to-Energy plants where its energy content can be used.
Even the most progressive European countries cannot recycle all of their waste. Austria, Germany and Belgium are among those who recycle the most – more than 55% of their municipal waste – but still send their residual waste to Waste-to-Energy plants. Only a small fraction of their waste is landfilled.
It is worth bearing in mind that residues from recycling processes often also need to be thermally treated.