Poland is using EU funds to construct municipal waste incinerators. Such distribution of funds would contradict the EU waste management main objective, according to which priority must be given to the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste, which are more cost-effective and environment-friendly solutions. They also create much more employment, frequently for people from socially excluded groups.
Many of the planned incinerators are oversized and will compete for resources with recycling facilities. The projects have been facing strong public opposition, most strikingly seen in protests in Krakow, where protests have been sparked around the city in each location that is considered for the plant and the standards of the public consultations have fallen far short of what is widely recognized as good practice.
Krakow's City have seen the EUR 120 million (planned) investment as the only possible solution to the problem of growing waste volumes both in the city and in surrounding areas.
The current recycling and composting level in Krakow is well below the EU-27 average. Krakow's latest draft waste management plan puts the recycling plus composting rate at 7,8 percent currently, while Eurostat figures present a 39 percent average rate across Europe as a whole (The EU's Waste Framework Directive requires 50% recycling of plastics, metal, paper and glass until 2020.) The authorities have so far failed to implement effective measures for boosting recycling volumes. In fact, the plan to construct a 240 000 tonnes-per-year incinerator will even further marginalize recycling efforts. In essence, once the incinerator is built – as with all incinerators – it will need to burn as much waste as possible in order to lower its operational costs. Easily combustible types of waste, like paper or plastic, will be directed for incineration, not for recycling, thus wasting valuable resources and energy. In other words, the incinerator will drain not only funds but also recoverable materials.
It will cost PLN797m (€190m), nearly half of which will come from the EU (EUR 92 382 339).
Another 34% will be financed by a preferential loan from a national fund for environmental protection and water management.
At present, there is one municipal waste incinerator functioning in Poland – in the country's capital, Warsaw. The plant is generating losses and each tonne of waste incinerated in it needs to be 40 percent subsidized from public money.
Although the Krakow authorities present the investment as a solution that will rescue Krakow from its waste problem once and for all, in fact even if the incinerator is constructed the city will still need another landfill. The plant will produce around 70 000 tonnes of ash and residues per year – partially toxic – that will need to be disposed somewhere. Increasing recycling and composting levels, as well as focusing on waste prevention schemes, would be much more effective in lowering landfilled waste volumes over a longer period of time.
Despite having one of the lowest recycling ratios in the EU-27, Poland is currently opting to channel two-thirds of its EU funds available for waste management into waste incineration.
POSCO E&C is currently building two process lines and combined heat & power facilities at waste thermal treatment plant, and as of the end of July 2014, progress on the project is at the 60% mark. The company plans to complete construction by December 2015.