Fuelling the Fire: European Investment Bank financing for the incineration industry

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Waste remains a growing problem in Europe, with only a few countries managing to stabilise or reduce the amount of municipal waste produced, or to achieve high recycling and composting rates. During the last few decades the EU has adopted a number of policies aimed at reducing waste generation and increasing recycling and composting, including the Waste Framework Directive (the revision of which is currently being finalised) and the Landfill Directive, aimed at reducing the amount of untreated organic waste going to landfill. A hierarchy of preferred waste management options has been developed, which is now widely accepted, and stipulates that reduction, re-use then recycling are preferred to energy recovery1 and then final disposal. The European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU’s house bank, is mandated to promote EU policy with its project investments and invested over EUR 1.5 billion in 33 waste management projects between 2000 and 2006, the majority of which were in the EU. The EIB’s financing is essentially public money - although much of it is borrowed on the financial markets it is guaranteed by EU governments and low-interest EIB loans represent a political seal of approval, serving to encourage other investors to get involved. According to EU waste policy, the EIB should support efforts to reduce, recycle and compost waste. However, this analysis shows that instead, in the 2000-2006 period, the majority of the EIB’s waste investments – 68 per cent - supported incineration, a waste management method fraught with environmental and economic deficiencies. If the EIB is to truly support the implementation of EU policy, this bias towards incineration investments must be halted. The EIB needs to seize the opportunity of the Waste Framework Directive revision to review and publish its waste lending policy, and to ensure that it promotes waste reduction and recycling in concrete financial terms rather than continuing to lend financial support to incineration.
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