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  • Subject area(s): Engineering
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  • Published on: 7th September 2019
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Threats

Legal and institutional framework

In recent years, the Waste Management Policy of many developed countries have come to recognize the importance of sustainable waste treatment (European Commision, 2003). In Germany and Austria, bans on landfilling have been applied since 2005 to waste with a volatile solids content and total organic carbon content of greater than 5%. However, the local legislation allowed the landfilling  of residual waste treated by mechanical biological treatment that have met certain criteria. In this regard, the implementation of Waste to Energy Technologies, or more specifically, RDF production faces the same issue of lack of similar stable policy framework or national strategy in many developing countries.

For example, current solid waste management in Brazil lacks specific policy and regulatory instruments to drive government actions. Superposition and conflicts among the various levels of existent legislation are common. Part of the confusion is caused by the unclear boundaries for legal responsibility, according to the kind of waste. Hazardous wastes, for example, must be collected, treated and disposed of by the producer, but that rarely occurs (Sônia et al., 1999). Environmental laws, when existing, are not always clear or coherent, and enforcement is very hard to ensure due to the lack of institutional, human and material resources.

Serbia has made significant progress in the development of a legislative framework in the waste management by adapting the existing laws to current EU directive. Although waste-to-energy initiatives are supported by these documents, specific directions and obligations for incineration of municipal solid waste in terms of energy recovery, are not clearly defined. The 2002 National Waste Management Strategy was the first document that suggested the combination of several municipalities into waste management regions (Vujic et al., 2017). This document was designed with optimistic goals; however, the main shortcoming was the nonexistence of an action plan for its implementation. Instead, the goals were delegated to regions and municipalities, which are not defined as legal entities. Similarly, measures to support strategy goals were not implemented and the monitoring departments were not established. These shortcomings resulted in a very poor progress and a failure of the strategy goals.

In Greece, the existing specifications for the Waste to Energy facilities were developed in 1997 and hence are outdated. As a result, the improvement in terms of environmental-friendliness of these technologies in the last years has not been identified in the specifications. The fact that there are no standards for the secondary fuels, even at the EU level, restricts further the potential production of an alternative, renewable fuel, such as RDF. Furthermore, the standards for the RDF in Greek Legislation (JMD114218/1997), which requires less than 20% moisture, and more than 95% content in paper and plastics may be difficult to achieve by the treatment of mixed MSW (Mavropoulos et al., 2007). Lastly, the waste management legislation is currently regarded more as a voluntary action and less as an obligation, which makes it difficult for RDF application.

Funding for Solid Wastes Management

Despite a few economic successful RDF projects in Turkey, the application of RDF in broad range requires an immense financial support from the governments, which is usually an issue in developing countries.

RDF projects might not be economically feasible in India as there is no standard gate or tipping fee—like in parts of Europe—or incentives, such as feed-in tariffs. This has resulted in minimal investment being made in the Waste to Energy sector. The local governments remarked that central government needs to increase the money available to spend on collections and developing facilities (Nixon et al., 2015). On the other hand, the industry units were hesitated to participate because local community are reluctant to form public private partnerships to share risk in projects and guarantee a consistent and reliable supply of waste.

In Brazil, investments in solid waste management have decreased since 1968 (Sônia et al., 1999). Possible funding sources for those investments could be: municipal budgets, foreign loans; fiscal incentives, fees, tariff revenues, bonds and debentures. However, the resources allocated by the National Budget for “general sanitation” sub-program, which includes solid waste management, were spent without control and subjected to political manipulations.  Financial restrictions plaguing public cleansing services are generally caused by inadequate budgets and tariff structures, leading to the non-equilibrated cash flows, insufficient revenues and the absence of credit lines.

The Waste Management Authorities

To reach the goals of the EU Waste Management directives, Serbia has established many different departments at the ministry level. However, ensuring that the regulations and jurisdictions are clearly defined has not yet been accomplished (Vujic et al., 2017). Therefore, different governmental departments have overlapping responsibilities that can complicate the system. Lastly, funding agencies for projects financing are somewhat fragmented, making cash flow an issue for implementation of effective waste management practices.

Solid waste management is municipal attribution in Brazil (Sônia et al., 1999). In contrary to water and wastewater services, up to 100% of services in MSW management are run by private enterprises. Nevertheless, extremely unskilled operational and even technical staff is a typical characteristic of solid waste service companies. There are also severe deficiencies of resources, which can be found in the municipal organizations such as “Public Cleansing Department”, resulting in high costs and low-quality services. Such deficiencies are derived from the discontinuity of administration plans and programs,  inadequate definition of roles and responsibilities, diversion of operational resources and staff toward works not related to public cleansing. Furthermore, poor maintenance of vehicles, obsolete technologies, equipment and installations plague majority of service companies and cities.

Waste Management Authority problem is also one of the most important issues for the development of integrated waste management systems in Greece (Mavropoulos et al., 2007). In the recent times, there are more than 40 different agencies, which provide integrated waste management services. Nevertheless, most of them are facing problems of poor technical, financial and institutional capacity.

Municipal Waste composition and segregation

Despite the fact, that  the recycling has become a standard practice in Western countries, the waste management system in China has many issues in regards to waste separation which is still poorly executed (Zhang et al., 2015). Moreover, its MSW has a low calorific value, because of the relatively high organic and moisture content. As a result it produces less energy, when incinerated. The average heating value of MSW in China’s waste incineration plants is 3–6.7 MJ/kg, which is far lower than the 8.4–17 MJ/kg in developed countries (Thipse et al., 2001; Patumsawad et al., 2002). Table summarizes the composition of the MSW of some of China’s cities. Many organic substances and nutrients in this waste are destroyed in the incineration process. About 30% of the generated heat may be lost as smoke and the smoke itself also requires further purification (Zhang et al., 2015).

Table: Waste composition in different cities in China

Development of WTE program in India was assumed to have significant social and economic benefits (Kumar et al., 2017). However, the track record of waste-to-energy in India highlights some of the difficulties. Most of the facilities have not worked effectively due to various operational and design problems. For instance, the first large-scale MSW incinerator built at Timarpur, New Delhi in 1987 had a capacity to process 300 tons per day with a total cost of about $ 5.7 million (Indo-UK Seminar Report. 2015). The plant failed because of poor waste segregation, seasonal variations in waste composition as well as properties, inappropriate technology selection, which resulted in operational and maintenance issues.

Lack of data and research

Lack of data and research has an influence on every sector of India\'s waste management industry - not only RDF production (Annepu et al., 2013). It was also one of the main reasons for the failures of many WTE facilities in India. There is no formal data available other than the survey from National Environmental and Engineering Research Institute in 2005. The lack of operational data from those unsuccessful facilities, has a great impact on the project\'s goal as well as financial possibility and the development of regulation. Due to the insufficient public awareness about the technology and best practices, community tends to look for a “magic” solution. This leads to many false promises of zero residue, zero emissions and zero leachate treatment, which can be counteracted by proper knowledge and training.

Public Opposition to Waste-to-Energy Incineration

The main obstacle for the implementation of WTE incineration in China is public opposition regarding the rising need for environmental protection (Zhang et al., 2015). This public opposition has three main causes. First is the common Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) phenomenon that also occurs in many cities including those from developed countries (COOLSWEEP, 2014). The NIMBY sentiments are mostly related to inappropriate location of MSW incineration plants. Some of the MSW incineration plants have been constructed too close to residential areas and even schools, and a few plants have been built near drinking water sources for residents. In addition, with the help of the mainstream media, MSW incineration power plants in public view are linked to air pollution that leads to cancer, and insecurity to the community, even though these plants supposedly meet EU standards (European Commision, 2003). Due to the negative publicity of mainstream media and other factors, public opposition to the construction of MSW incineration plants has occurred in cities including Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Shandong (Zhang et al., 2015). Village demonstrations, student strikes, and other protests affect social stability and cause panic among the community.

The second reason for the opposition to the WTE program is the lack of public participation, especially when the incineration plants were first developed in China. As citizens’ environmental consciousness is being awakened, there is a growing concern about the construction of those plants. Since 2010, there have been some demonstrations against the construction of RDF incineration plants that have attracted the attention of the government. Consequently, some public consultations have been conducted prior to initiating the construction of the facilities, but the public participation processes are regarded as tokenism in related to eight levels of public participation mentioned by Sheery (Sheery, 1969).

A developing considerable gap between the government and the public was the third reason for the public opposition to the WTE option. Many WTE incineration plants in large and medium cities, especially in coastal cities have high capital costs, and potentially low economic benefits that leads to the involvement of private sector. Thus, these facilities must take the form of public-private partnerships, which tend to lead to fraudulent conduct, since government construction contracts, franchises, and operating subsidies are easily obtained through corruption. This is the main reason that some of RDF incineration plans failed to meet the national emission standards (Ni et al., 2009). As a matter of fact, the implementation and monitoring of public utilities require genuine transparency, but when governments are both investors and regulators, the public finds it hard to obtain lucid information, which in turn deepens public distrust (Zhang et al., 2015). For example, a survey conducted by two environmental nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in 2014 shows that it is difficult to get access to information from the government (Wuhu Ecology Center, 2015). Only 65 out of 160 surveyed incineration plants responded with the request to disclose their emission data. However, the results were riddled with incomplete monitoring information, and only rarely including key data on dioxins and fly ash.

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