The integration of renewable energy sources into sustainable development practices has become increasingly important. The municipal solid waste (MSW) utilisation presents a promising renewable energy source, provided that it is combined with modern technologies to optimise its energy conversion. The global population growth and the corresponding rise in living standards have resulted in increased consumption of goods and energy. Whilst such consumption boosts economic development, it also contributes to a significant increase in waste generation. In this article, the possibility of using MSW for energy production is examined, along with an overview of the production of waste and treatment activities in the European Union (EU). Europe generates 1.66 billion tonnes of waste yearly, with construction, demolition and MSW being a major contributor. The European Commission's Waste Legislative Package aims for 60% reuse and recycling readiness by 2025 and a 65% target by 2030, focussing on landfill assessment, waste recycling promotion and other initiatives. In 2020, there were 504 waste to energy (WtE) plants in Europe with 61 million tonnes (137 kg per capita) of total incineration capacity. France has the most WtE (124) plants, whilst Germany has the highest capacity for waste incineration. The total energy produced from waste in 2019 was 41.2 MTOE (million tonnes of oil equivalent), with nearly half of that total was accounted by MSW. This includes non-renewable waste, MSW renewable and non-renewable waste and industrial waste. This statistics represents around 2.5% of the EU's overall energy supply. The majority of energy recovery is used to generate electricity in electricity-only facilities or either in combined heat and power (CHP). In 2020, there was a 69 million tonnes or 58% decline in the amount of MSW that was landfilled in the EU, which represents 4.0% decline on an annual average. Germany recycled most MSW with 66% approximated recycling rate in 2020. Only eight EU countries have recycling rates that are higher than 50%. On average, WtE plants in the EU monitor around 60% of biogenic CO2 emissions, with the remaining 40% being fossil CO2 emissions. In the light of the EU's prioritisation of the circular economy, it is imperative that all Member States, including EEA countries, shift from traditional waste disposal methods towards more intelligent waste treatment strategies, such as gasification and pyrolysis, which embody circular economy principles in their waste management policies.
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