The rapidly rising social awareness appeals for changes in the approach towards the use of resources in the widely understood economy and industry. Concern for the resources on our planet is undoubtedly a serious matter, as their volume continues to shrink while the demand continues to grow, due to a constantly increasing population and modernization of lifestyle. Projections by the United Nations (UN) show that the current global population stands at around 7.7 billion and that it will continue to grow to nearly 10 billion by the year 2050 [1
]. According to the World Wide Fund For Nature [3
], assuming that all people on the planet have the same lifestyle as in the European Union (EU), human beings would consume ecosystem resources intended for the whole year by May 10th [4
]. The intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) document [5
] discusses the highly negative impact of economic development on the environment and ecosystems. In particular, the areas occupied by cities have nearly doubled since 1992. Almost 33% of land areas and 75% of potable water resources are used for plant and animal production, while plastic pollution has increased from 4.86 (urban population 39%) billion in 1980 to 7.8 billion (urban population 56%) in 2020 [6
]. This situation calls for a shift in the strategic perception and immediate changes in the approach towards a responsible use of natural resources, including secondary resources and recycling of waste. In order for the changes to be effective, they must cover a wide range of entities and processes in various dimensions—including construction, production and technology, material, organizational, institutional, political, economic and socio-cultural aspects. This is emphasized in many scientific publications dedicated to the circular economy (CE) [7
In 2015, all UN member states voted for the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which highlights 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specific targets for each goal [12
]. Among these 17 SDGs, Goal 12: ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns and Goal 11: make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, are directly related with the theme addressed in this article, whereas, Goal 7: ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and Goal 9: to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, are also somewhat related to it. The idea of a CE is not new, since various solutions have already existed in the scientific and economic literature, e.g., the concept of sustainable development [13
]. Researchers have argued that, even if well-off countries incur high spending to protect the environment, the relative effects of their actions would be rather weak [15
]. The current linear model of the economy is a hindrance towards solving the problem of waste,
emission or extraction of natural resources, as it contradicts the business interests of the global economic powers. Moving together towards a CE model, which guarantees sustainability and competitiveness simultaneously, would be the most effective solution [9
]. CE opens vast opportunities for various kinds of businesses and, increasing the material circularity within the economy, can also alleviate poverty, but systemic and disruptive changes would only take effect if significant changes to the existing regulatory structures were carried out [16
The European Union (EU) adopted a CE Action Plan, in December 2015, to steer the existing economic development model towards a more sustainable one. This action plan mandates a continued commitment of all EU stakeholders for a transition to a more circular economy, where the value of products, materials and resources would be maintained as long as possible, and the generation of waste would be minimized [17
]. In 2019, 4 years after its adoption, the action plan was finally considered to be fully complete and consists of 54 actions which have been delivered or are being implemented [18
]. The 54 sections have been divided into various categories, such as: production, consumption, waste management, market for secondary raw materials, and sectoral action for plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, bio-mass and bio-based materials, innovation and investments, and monitoring. For waste management, one of the first actions was to revise the legislation enforcing the principles of the CE to the existing waste management policies. Through the directive (EU) 2018/851 of the European Parliament and the Council of 30 May 2018, the previous Directive 2008/98/EC on waste was amended [19
]. Since this directive, different measures have been taken by the EU member countries and researchers have carried out various studies in this regard as well. In terms of municipal waste management, it has been found that the Central and Northern EU members are among the best performers, whereas, the worst are Eastern European countries [20
]. The barriers found for waste management in Eastern as well as some Central European countries include: a focus on low-cost options, vast discrepancies of waste management performance across different regions and lack of cooperation between different layers of multi-governance in waste management [21
]. Hence, it is safe to say that these countries would be more inclined to adopt a waste processing method following the CE principle, if there are higher profits or financial incentives involved as compared to the existing methods. This study, through the profitability analysis on empirical data, would recommend one such waste processing method, a vital practical implication.
As a member state of the European Union, Poland is obligated to implement and transpose all legal solutions established by the EU institutions onto the national legislation. However, not without a critical assessment. Polish postulates submitted to the European Commission in September 2015 addressed four important issues [22
]: (i) support for innovative initiatives; (ii) consideration of the service sector in the CE implementation; (iii) enhanced flow of raw materials; and (iv) an improvement of their quality by means of sustainable production and consumption. In January 2016, Poland announced its position in which it supported shifting to CE, however, under certain conditions enabling adjustment of goals to the capacity of individual member states. The formal state authority, responsible for the implementation of actions and preparation of Poland to the transformation of the Polish economy to CE is the Ministry of Development which, pursuant to the national legislation, appointed the Task Force for CE composed of the representatives of ministries involved in the economic transformation. The effect of works of the Task Force was publishing—as early as December 2016—of the draft concerning the Polish Circular Economy Roadmap. The direction of actions presented in the document is de facto compliant with the understanding of CE described above. As stated in the roadmap: “The concept of sustainable production is based, not only on the principle of increasing the resource productivity that is decreasing the volume of raw materials consumed for a unit of produced goods, but also on anticipating the reduction of negative environmental impact of the production processes, including, in particular, the context of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and volume of produced waste” [23
]. This is why we focus in this article on waste management, in particular, municipal waste management.
There has been prior research on municipal waste management, and sustainable model solutions for it have also been proposed in Poland, other parts of EU and the world [20
]. There has been intensive progress in Poland for waste management, however, studies in the literature do not address the cost effectiveness option, which is one of the barriers towards implementation of CE in this sector [21
]. There is a lack of empirical studies which discuss the profitability of adopting CE concepts for waste processing, especially in this part of Europe. One of the reasons for this is the limited access to actual market data used by the waste management companies, which is usually guarded as a business secret. With this article, we wish to address this gap in the literature. In general, the aim of our research is to elaborate on the implementation of CE in Poland, one of the younger EU countries but also one of the largest member states, in terms of municipal waste management and to draw out the examples which could be useful for other young EU countries, especially the Visegrad four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia). Among the Visegrad four, Poland is leading the way in waste management [26
], especially in terms of policies, and still there is scope for improvement. In particular we aim to carry out the profitability analysis, on empirical data, for two methods of waste processing, incineration and torrefaction, intended for small municipalities and settlements in Poland in which district heating and trading of generated electricity are not feasible, to show which method would be more beneficial in terms of profitability as well as CE concept.
The structure of the article is as follows. After giving a brief introduction to the article in Section 1
, findings from the literature regarding municipal waste management, implementation of circular economy and actions taken by Polish government towards implementation of CE, are elaborated in Section 2
. This is followed by the background of the case study and the description of data and methods used for the profitability analysis of two methods of municipal solid waste management, incineration and torrefaction, in Section 3
which include the results of the case study in Section 2
. The case study accounts for the conditions that existed prior to the lock-down caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic and after the re-opening, in Poland. This is followed by the conclusions in Section 4
and lastly, Section 5
highlights the limitations of the current study and the future research horizons it opens up.
3. Case Study: Profitability Analysis for Two Methods of Municipal Waste Processing
3.1. Background of the Case Study
As of 2019, 38.4 million people live in Poland, producing an average of 330 kg municipal waste per year, which is 12.67 million kg of municipal waste per year in the whole country. There also should be added to these calculations 1.2 million immigrants from Ukraine who, due to their incomplete stay, generate less waste, as indicated in Table 4
. The exact numbers, due to the increase in volume of waste generated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remains to be seen.
The thesis that, by far, the greatest impact on the amount of waste generated is influenced by economic factors, especially wealth of the residents, is confirmed by studies which were already carried out in 1996 and continued in the following years [92
]. According to the experts, it can be assumed that GDP growth by 3.5 percent, will result in a 1.5% increase in municipal waste [96
]. Based on the forecasts of the National Bank of Poland, projections of decrease in Poland’s population according to the projection by UN as well as Statistics Poland, and together with immigrants from Ukraine [88
] an extrapolation of the volume of municipal waste in Poland, has been prepared and shown in Table 5
. Even though the number of inhabitants are projected to decrease the waste generated per capita is projected to increase. Hence, increasing the total amount of waste generated. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the municipality waste sector adversely in terms of recycling. It is not that there has just been an increase in the municipal waste volume, but there has also been a reduction in recycling during the lock-down due to COVID-19 [98
Considering the declining population of Poland, an the upward trend in the number of economic immigrants from Ukraine and the other countries, is clearly visible [97
]. Combining this with the increase in municipal waste due to the higher amount of time spent at home due to the pandemic and its after effect, will make the issue of municipal waste, that cannot be land-filled nor recycled, a more severe problem. In the process of implementing the CE in Poland, the actions aiming at increasing the awareness in the field of waste separation into fractions are required to be taken. In 2018, considering the upward trend in immigration, as well as municipal waste generation, representatives of Regional Municipal Waste Processing Installations (RMWPIs), dealing with waste processing, wrote a letter sent to the Minister of the Environment and pointed the requirement of actions to increase the number of professional recyclers and to use other treatment technologies, e.g., torrefaction [99
In an interesting publication of scientists from many EU countries dealing with the problem of waste, in the context of the idea of a closed-loop economy, emphasized that the transformation of waste into energy can be one of the key elements of a CE that allows manufacturers to maintain the value of products, materials and resources on the market for as long as possible, minimizing waste and resources [21
]. As we show in Table 5
, municipal waste has significant volume to be managed and also has the potential to contribute towards CE, as well as generate economic benefits through the use of other waste management methods. The interest of doing so certainly exists in Poland. The current focus of the Polish municipal waste management sector is towards increasing the capacity of municipal waste processing through incineration plants [86
]. Incineration is one step further towards CE but still lacks the ability to fully address the CE concept. During incineration of municipal waste, energy is recovered but there is residue in form of sewage sludge (SSA). Ordinance of the Polish Minister of the Environment of May 11, 2015 on the recovery of waste outside installations and equipment, allows for the recovery of the mineral fraction from the SSA. Recently, research was conducted into the possibilities of using ash from SSA produced in incineration plants as a secondary source of phosphorus (P), which resulted from European Union (EU) legislation that indicated that phosphorus is a critical raw material (CRM) [101
]. This residue can be used to prepare eco-friendly cement [102
]. However, these methods require additional processes and setup for recovering usable material from the residue. This issue can be over by implying torrefaction process instead of incineration. Studies have shown the torrefaction of mixed municipal waster would yield energy and usable fertilizer or fuel [103
]. Torrefaction is also referred to as roasting i.e., the process of thermal and chemical processing of organic compounds in specific thermal conditions. In most cases, the literature provides the following parameters: temperature of 200–300 °C, heating rate on the inside of the reactor <50 °C/min, input dwell time in the reactor 15–60 min, no oxygen, atmospheric pressure, the effect of which is the production of biocarbon [105
]. Additionally, this technology is more economically advantageous for companies dealing with waste management in smaller towns.
By 31/01/2020, the Ministry of Climate (because it took over the “waste portfolio” as part of the division of competences between the Ministry of the Environment and the newly created Ministry of Climate in the Government of Poland) had started to update (on a national scale) the list of enterprises appearing in the Provincial Waste Management Plans (WPGO—Wojewódzkich Planów Gospodarki Odpadami). Thus, new companies, which have already started to work on building new incinerators, will appear in the list of WPGO, but the possibilities of applying for new incinerators will not be available. It results from the power of art. 35 b of the Waste Act, added by the Act of 19 July 2019, amending the Act on maintaining cleanliness and order in municipalities and amending certain other acts (Journal of Laws of 2019, item 1579). It reads: thermal treatment of waste will be allowed only in installations specified in the regulation issued by the Minister of Climate. Pursuant to Article 35 b para. 3 of the aforementioned Act, if the installation intended for the thermal transformation of municipal waste or waste from the treatment of municipal waste was not included in the list, i.e., new building permits, integrated permits or permits for processing waste in this installation, shall be refused. Considering that the investment process itself from the preparation of technical documentation to construction lasts on average of 3–4 years, it can be assumed that these installations will not be built anytime soon. Moreover, due to the COVID-19 pandemic further delays have taken place. The pandemic influenced the decision of the government administration, namely the Ministry of the Environment, responsible for issuing administrative decisions regarding the construction of incineration plants in Poland. In accordance with the Polish law, incineration plants can be built only after entering them into the National Waste Management Plan, and then placing them in the Provincial Waste Management Plan (Article 186 of the Act—Environmental Protection Law; i.e., Journal of Laws of 2018, item 799), that clearly states that an investment that is not in accordance with WPGO cannot be implemented. Construction of new incineration plants was suspended due to COVID-19, and the local municipalities from Kraków, Tarnów, Zamość and Żywiec, Rybnik, and Wrocław logeed compaliants agains the decision and are making efforts to overturn it. So far, the Ministry of the Environment has not supported the construction of new installations, emphasizing that this is contrary to EU policy. The construction of new installations would increase the possibility of collecting waste by another 500 to 700 thousand tons, depending on the financial capabilities of investors.
Through empirical evidences from the Polish municipal waste management market, this study compares the profitability of two methods of municipal waste management, incineration, and torrefaction. The time of implementation from the approval to the first operation, cost of implementation, cost of waste processing, revenue from waste processing as well as revenue from the sale of byproduct has been taken into account for the analysis. The conclusions drawn from this analysis would add to the gap found in the literature regarding the empirical analysis of these two methods of waste processing. They would also serve as a recommendation for the policy makers and business investors in the field of municipal waste management regarding the choice between the implementation of incineration or torrefaction from the CE and profitability perspective.
3.2. Material and Methods
In the Polish waste collection market, the local governments are responsible in accordance with the law of waste management (Act of 13 September 1996 on maintaining cleanliness and order in municipalities), to organize tenders for waste collection. The RIPOKs, which have the possibility to manage and sort individual waste fractions, place their bid on these tenders. The price from the auction is transferred to contracts concluded for one or two years of waste collection from the Commune. These companies analyze the possibilities of utilizing the oversize fraction through mechanical-biological processes or combustion in existing installations of this type. These companies, RIPOKs, do not have complicated methodologies supported by complex mathematical formulas or models, rather they rely more on their managers’ updated market knowledge and their experts. Forecasting of the estimated costs and revenue are also not based on advanced models, such as machine learning based approach or multivariate time series, due to the small number of data points (one for each year and 10 in total, without a uniform time interval). Hence the estimates used by these companies, for contesting the tenders, rely more on the market awareness of the managers. The empirical data used for analysis in this study were collected by one of the authors, as the Director of Sales Department at EkoPartner Lubin (one of the RMWPIs in Poland). Following is the description of the the collected data and the steps followed in making the calculations used for the profitability analysis in this study. Such data and steps are followed by most of the RMWPIs in Poland to make their estimates for the tenders they bid for, hence gives an indepth empirical overview in-terms of profitability analysis:
Data: Information on the amount of municipal waste generated in Poland is collected daily by an employee of the company from Public Information Bulletins obligatory published on the website of municipal offices, from tender proceedings notices, or from auctions conducted through tender platforms (login trade, allegro, olx, market planet). The data are entered into the databases broken down into semi-annual, annual and two-year contracts.
Data Analysis: Based on the collected information, employees conduct price analyzes in relation to:
the size of the commune
the amount of waste
distances to specific locations of municipal waste plants
the possibility of collection by individual locations—applies to both formal and legal integrated permit defined by volume in tonnes/month as well as real possibilities of mechanical and biological processing
fixed and variable costs of own (internal) plants
Based on the expert assessment of these data, scenarios and variants of price forecasts for offer prices from each commune are generated separately.
Assessment of competition: Price variants are collided with data on competitors, namely:
prices offered in tenders for a specific municipality and similar in size
the possibilities that competing companies have in terms of collection, storage and storage
having own transport
human potential (number of brigades/shift)
economic and financial potential (a single plant or enterprise belonging to Remondis or Tonsmeier networks).
Final offer evaluation: Employees prepare final variants of the offer on the basis of their own options and the potential of competition together with the assessment of contract profitability for each commune separately, and then the Management Board of the company decides on the final price or price negotiable at auctions.
Based on the empirical data obtained directly from EkoPartner Lublin, six scenarios (A to F) were built. These scenarios show the forecasts for the amounts of municipal waste in the years 2020–2025 preceded by actual data from 2007 onwards. Initially only three scenarios (A, B and C) based on the amount of waste were forecasted, but due to the impact of COVID-19, revenues from the collection of the oversize fraction increased. There were several overlapping reasons for this increase. The first concerned the presence of a significant number of people at home by switching to home office or being in quarantine, and because of closing schools, colleges and some enterprises (hairdressers, cosmetics, cinemas, theaters, gyms, swimming pools, etc.). Increased consumption turned out to be a natural state, and this proportionally translated into waste production. According to the data from four municipal plants (located in Lower Silesia, Upper Silesia and in central Poland), the average amount of waste collected by these companies, especially municipal waste, i.e., the oversize fraction, increased by 5000. tons per month, i.e., by over 30%. Secondly, the collection price for municipal waste increased by 20%, reaching an average ceiling of PLN 1,000/tonne. This is the effect of both the increase in the amount of waste, but also the problems of many existing municipal waste collection facilities not only limited by limiting the capacity and mechanical and biological treatment of waste, but also from staffing problems—corona viruses and the inability to return some employees from Ukraine, who in some enterprises accounted for up to 60% of employees. Hence, additional three scenarios (D, E and F) which took into account the effects of the pandemic were also taken into consideration.
For Scenario A, the forecasts are based on: the possibility of utilization with the use of existing, as well as, under-construction incineration plants and cement plants; price paths determined by the author based on bilateral public tenders, in which the author participated and the contracts that were concluded by the company. The existing installations, along with the investments in progress—by 2025—will enable for treatment of 14.4 million tonnes of waste, which creates a market gap of nearly 4 million tonnes. Prices of waste, from the oversize fraction up to 2020, come from contracts concluded by the company, and, beyond 2020, are the company’s projection. The market value is calculated as: (Annual waste volume—Total Capacity) x Price, while ’Total Capacity’ is the sum of Incineration plant capacities, Cement factories, Fraction 0-80 and Raw materials. It is to be noted here that this analysis does not take into account the cost for collection of the municipal waste. These costs are covered in the fees for garbage collection from the residents, hence are not taken into account in the profitability analysis for the torrefying installation. The same principle applies to the receipt of biochar, which is the result of a process at the installation. It is companies interested in biochar that collect raw material from RIPOK with their own transport. Hence for RIPOK both of these costs do not apply. In scenario B, we assume that more incineration plants will be built from 2023, and their utilization capacity will be 2 million tonnes every year, and, in Scenario C, we assume that more incineration plants will arrive, and the utilization capacity will be 2.5 million tonnes from 2023. Scenarios D, E and F are in the same conditions as A, B and C respectively after the effect of real market conditions which arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
3.3. Results of the Case Study
shows the calculations for various waste management options for scenario A, and the market value of the resulting overload fraction of the waste. The amount of waste (overload fraction) that is to be managed has been decreasing steadily since 2007. This is primarily because of the government’s initiative to reduce the production of municipal waste. It can be seen, based on the projections, that in the years to come this overload fraction would start to increase again if additional capacity is not added.
Considering the five other scenarios, B to F, Figure 3
, shows the graph with market values of the overload fraction, in all six scenarios A to F. Projections on the effects of the pandemic clearly show that the overload fraction of the municipal waste is bound to increase and its market value would be even higher. This simply indicates a need for swift action for increasing the processing capacity.
Torrefaction and incineration plants have a lot of difference when it comes to implementation time, cost of establishment and waste processing, by products produced and maintenance. Table 7
, shows the comparison between various elements for setting up incineration and torrefaction plants for a typical small region in Poland—a pivot with 30,000 tonnes of waste generated on average.
It can be seen that torrefaction plants are clearly more advantageous as compared to incineration plants. Setting up a torrefaction plant is more than 5 times cheaper as compared to incineration plants, takes 40% less time for implementation, produces the byproduct of fuel and has no additional requirements like continuous monitoring. Moreover, The processing of waste through torrefaction is over 3 times cheaper than incineration, which results in higher profits. Figure 4
, shows the comparison between the revenues, costs and profits for processing waste incineration and torrefaction, pre and post the COVID-19 pandemic for processing 30,000 Megagram per annum municipal waste.
As shown in Figure 4
, the revenues for both, torrefaction and incineration, are the same (shown by the “Revenue (without byproduct)*” line in the graph). The torrefaction process yields biochar as a byproduct, which is a fuel and can be sold directly for additional revenue without any further processing. When the additional revenue from selling the biochar is not considered, the corresponding profits for both the processes are shown by the lines “Profit-Incineration” and “Profit-Torrefaction (without byproduct)” in the graph. Even in this condition (without considering the revenues from byproduct sales), the profit for torrefaction process is higher than that for incineration. If the revenues from the sale of biochar is considered, the revenues and, consequently, the profits, rise (as shown by the lines “Revenue-Torrefaction (with byproduct)” and “Profit-Torrefaction (with byproduct)” respectively). In fact, the projected profits from 2021 onwards for the torrefaction process were even higher than the projected revenues when the sale of byproduct is not considered. This means that only the sale of biochar itself is more than enough for covering the costs of processing the waste. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the revenue for waste processing increased dramatically, hence increasing the profits of these installations, the effects of which are also shown in the Figure 4
. These results show that torrefaction is far more profitable as compared to incineration.
The growing environmental challenges and diminishing resources has led countries around the world to take action in moving towards a CE. The concept gains new followers in the world of science, as well as in business and amongst policy-makers. National and regional legislation have been established to facilitate the movement from a linear economy to a CE. COVID-19 pandemic has caused concerns for economies around the world and put severe strain on the resources as the world went under lockdown. Poland, one of the youngest EU countries, had been steadily putting efforts for transitioning towards CE. The Polish roadmap for a CE has introduced new and important elements, such as EPR, which would increase the recycling rates and also waste management. Primarily, the Polish government has taken action towards promoting life cycle assessment, SC, bioeconomy and new business models. It remains to be seen, how these policies are taken forward in the post pandemic era, nevertheless, among the Visegrad four, Poland’s actions (summarized in Table 1
) can be considered as an example for forming strategies for moving towards CE.
Waste management is one of the challenges face by Poland, both for the industrial waste and the municipal waste. In terms of municipal waste, Poland was able to curtail the volume of municipal waste generate by over 50% as of 2018 in comparison to 1995 and was able to achieve 57% recycling rate in 2017. On the other hand there is still over 42% waste which is being land-filled and 1% combusted without energy recovery, which is against the principle of CE.As per the current capacity of the incineration plants with energy recovery, a little less than 50% of the recycled waste can be processed with thermal recovery and there is a large amount of overload waste fraction. Even before considering the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, empirical projections showed that this overload waste fraction will grow further, because current incineration plants which are functioning of the ones which would be setup by 2025 shall not be able to cope with the growing municipal waste volume. More so as the people stayed home during the lock-down, caused by COVID-19 and the prevailing work from home policy of a number of organization post the lockdown. RIPOKs in Poland are estimating even higher municipal waste volume from 2021 onwards, which will add further to the overload waste fraction.
As of October 2019, there were six fully functioning municipality incineration installations, one of which is undergoing modernization and two are under construction. Installations of new incineration plants in Poland have to undergo a very length process. The recent amendments and changes at the ministerial level in the Polish government, had complicated things further. Furthermore, the effect of COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the implementation of the new plants which were approved as well as halted the approval process of new projects for such installations. It remains to be seen when the processing of new installations opens up again. Based on the empirical data taken from the actual implemented contracts and the ongoing contract (provided by EkoPartner, one of the RMWPIs in Poland), by 2025, the current incinerators were expected to have a capacity of processing about 14.4 million tonnes of waste, which would have created a market gap of about 4 million tonnes. Due to he prevailing condition this would be a difficult target to meet now, as the implementation period of setting up an incinerator is estimated at 5 years. Hence, any new incinerators (even if approved in 2020 despite the current hold off) could only begin functioning by 2025 and the delay in implementation of already approved projects would create a larger market gap. Torrefaction plants have a shorter implementation period of 3 years, which would prove to be an effective solution in this scenario. If, approved by 2021, these plants can be in service by 2024, and reduce the stress of the overload waste fraction.
The results of the comparison of the profitability analysis of torrefaction and incineration for municipal waste treatment, in this study, further warrants choice of torrefaction. Torrefaction has lower costs of implementation (120 million PLN for incineration as compared to 22 million for torrefaction), which means that five torrefaction plants can be implemented in the cost of 110 million PLN, 10 million PLN less than the cost of one incineration plant. Additionally, they would be ready 2 years earlier. Once implemented, torrefaction would also be more profitable in terms of waste processing, as shown in Figure 4
, because of its low operating cost (one third of the cost of incineration). This would also be a strong step towards CE, as the byproduct (biochar—a fuel) does not require any further processing and can be re-introduced in the economy. Considering the revenue obtained from sale of biochar, the profits soar even higher. In fact, the revenue generated from the sale of byproduct would be more than enough to cover the cost for processing the waste from the 2nd year, onwards. This would lead to lower cost of waste processing for municipalities and the saved costs could be diverted towards implementation of more incineration plants. For Poland, it is even more profitable because of the high amount of coal being used in the production of electricity. Biochar is a suitable fuel for the production of electricity, hence it would not just add to the revenues, but also help in reducing emissions, reducing the amount of coal being used and thus leading to decrease in mining. Benefiting from all aspects that required to be added in CE. This fills the gap found in the literature for concert empirical evidence, to concluded that torrefaction is more suitable and profitable option in a CE, as a waste processing option in for processing municipal waste as compared to incineration.
Currently, Poland has not implemented any torrefaction plants on a large scale basis for processing municipal waste. In the current circumstance, post COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world are striving to strengthen the economies again, using new technologies, systems and solutions. This would also be a conducive time and opportunity for Poland as well as other young EU countries, to consider implementation torrefaction as an effective solution to solve their municipal waste management challenge.