Material and Energy valorisation of waste in a Circular Economy

Work programme – the role of Task 36

The role of Task 36

Task 36 is designed to allow exchange of information on evolving waste management impacts on the integration of energy into waste management. There are a number of issues associated with this that are relevant to many IEA Bioenergy countries.

The Task is designed to facilitate exchange of information on strategic technical and non-technical issues related to the integration of energy into waste management decision-making and operations. While stakeholders contributing to this exchange of information include researchers, the waste industry, the energy from waste sector, policy makers and local decision makers, the Task proposes to continue its prioritisation of information for policy and decision makers.

The Task will cover a wide range of topics of relevance to energy from waste, as requested by its participants.  However, there are limitations to what the Task can achieve alone, due to the small number of participating countries.  In order to cover the wide range of interest we will use Task meetings for exchange of information.  These meetings have been very successful and informative. We propose to use them to greater benefit by selecting a theme for each meeting, associated with specific topics that have been identified as priorities by the current Task members.  These will then form the basis of a workshop at each meeting, which will be open to wider participation than the Task on the basis that participants must actively contribute to the workshop.  Each IEA participant will present on a related subject of relevance to their work. The proceedings of these workshops will then be published on our web site.

The Task is aware of issues that influence energy from waste that are covered in other Tasks and by other organisations and are working together with other tasks in IEA Bioenergy as well as with organisations such as International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).


Priorities for 2019-2021

Priorities for 2019-2021 have been developed taking the global trends discussed above in to account and also local trends of importance to participating countries. The members have shown interest in the following areas:


The role of waste in a circular economy

The role of waste and EfW in the circular economy will be the main focus of the Task in the triennium 2019–2021, and a total of six topics of interest have been identified within this area:

1- Policies (or lack therefor) directed towards a Circular Economy: policies can act both as facilitators and as barriers for the development of waste management and waste-to-energy systems, but also for the transitions towards a circular economy. In some countries, they are not even a clear definition for waste-to-energy, which represents an added problem when implementing policies.

2- Role of Energy from waste (EfW) and material recycling in the Circular Economy: What role should EfW and material recycling have in a future of a circular economy? Which changes are needed to close the loop? Will there be in the future a need for EfW? Which are the main challenges that the sector will have to face? Will higher-value products be on the focus instead of electricity? The area is large and complex and focus this triennium will be on some selected subjects such as:

    • The role of EfW in a circular economy and transition towards that
    • Valorisation of residues/ashes from EfW
    • Nutrients recovery
    • Carbon material recycling through traditional mechanical methods and through feedstock recycling

3- New waste streams / waste fuels: the development of new materials bring new waste streams never handled before and that can pose a challenge for the actual waste management system

4- Digitalization and implications for waste management and energy from waste: we are in the era of the big data, improving monitoring and control systems and so forth. How will this revolution will affect the waste management and energy from waste system?

5- Efficiency in the EfW plants: The EfW plants will have to perform an efficient recovery of resources if they should have a role in a future circular economy.

6- Is there a place for decentralised solutions in a Circular Economy? Most of the solution discussed when considering the circular economy are oriented to large-scale facilities. But in some cases, there might be benefits in, or demands on, small scale solutions.


Co-processing of waste and biomass

Waste is a very attractive feedstock in different processes. Its use would allow to close the loop but also to save resources. In the cases where the price might be negative, it is necessary to create an extra income through the end products (i.e. heat, power or liquid fuels among others). However, waste are often extremely heterogenous materials and can pose a technical challenge. There can also be limitations in legislation.

When it comes to the implementation of new technologies such as biomass gasification or direct liquefaction, capital investment needs in combination with high feedstock cost of virgin biomass pose a significant hurdle. Here, waste having negative feedstock cost can act as an enabler to boost implementation.



In a society moving towards circularity, flexibility is a key aspect in feedstocks, products and systems/technologies. Other aspects of interest considering flexibility are energy storage and grid balancing. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) or utilisation is also an area where we see development on energy from waste plants.


Assessing non-economic aspects of waste and waste treatment

Increase of circularity should not bring more emissions or higher negative impact (i.e. reduction of carbon or chemical footprint). Despite of their importance, social aspects are often left aside when doing these assessments.


For more details, please read the work programme.

Work programme

The work programme has been designed to pragmatically fit in with the number of members of the Task in the 2016-18 Triennium, whilst at the same time covering the issues indicated as important by current Task members.


Activity Structure

4 key activities are proposed to achieve the work of the Task:

  • Task meetings, with associated workshops
  • Collaborative work with other Tasks and other organisations.
  • Reports on key topics
  • Communication through presentation of results on the web site and via international conferences.


Task meetings and associated workshops

The Task’s core work will be undertaken in the newly structured Task meetings, each of which will be accompanied with a themed workshop.  The aim of these workshops is to allow Task members to present work on the nature of the issues concerned within their own country; to invite speakers to present work of relevance and to allow discussion of the issues presented. These meetings will not detract from the very successful current format of Task meetings, which normally include a relevant site visit.  This format will continue.

The following workshops are currently being proposed:

  • Nutrient recovery from waste workshop (Sweden)
  • Technology pathways for energy recovery from waste in a circular economy (Australia)
  • Feedstock recycling: waste-to-chemicals (US)
  • Is there a place for decentralized solutions in a circular economy? or Factors that influence in the successful implementation of waste-to-energy policies (Subject to change) (South Africa)
  • The Role of waste-to-energy and material recycling in a circular economy (Norway)

Collaborative work

There will be collaborative work going on through the Triennium on the following subjects

  • Bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration or utilisation (BECCS/U), together with Task 40
  • Bioenergy for high temperature heat in the industry, together with Task 32
  • Co-processing of biomass and waste (to be determined)

ExCo interaction and support

This Task will continue to support the Bioenergy Agreement in its work.  To do this the Task leader will attend ExCo meetings as necessary and provide annual reports and accounts as required.

To strengthen the involvement of the ExCo with the Task, the ExCo member for the host country will be invited to participate in the Task meeting held in their country.