February 23, 2010 | General

New Rules Target Commercial Food Waste (Ireland)

BioCycle February 2010, Vol. 51, No. 2, p. 31
Effective in 2010, Ireland’s new food waste regulations require major producers of food waste to segregate these materials for separate collection.
Percy Foster

IN DECEMBER 2009, John Gormley, Ireland’s Minister for the Environment, published the Food Waste Regulations (SI 508 of 2009) heralding national legislation for the source separation of food waste from major commercial premises. Only a handful of other European countries such as Austria and Germany have introduced similar successful measures. In February, it is expected that the European Union (EU) will make a decision if it will introduce a European Biowaste Directive for source separation and, if it does, Ireland will be a leading example for other member states.
The Regulations are designed to promote the segregation and recovery of food waste in the commercial sector. They will facilitate achieving the targets set out in the European Commission’s Landfill Directive 99/31/EC for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) from landfill sites to composting and anaerobic digestion plants, and to other forms of biological treatment. Gormley, a member of Ireland’s Green Party, does not support incineration and he has specified in the legislation that the food waste cannot be sent to incinerators. Disposal of source separated food waste into the residual collection service also is prohibited.
The Regulations impose obligations on the major producers of food waste, such as state buildings where food is prepared, restaurants and cafés, hot food outlets, canteens, hotels and larger guest houses, supermarkets and other food retailers, to segregate these materials and make them available for separate collection service (commonly known as a brown bin service in Ireland). Alternatively, these materials can be biologically treated (e.g. composted) on the premises where they are generated under specified conditions. Small businesses that produce less than 50 kg of food waste per week are exempted from complying for one year.

Compliance Requirements
To comply with the Regulations, a waste producer must submit a food waste management implementation report to the local authority on the use, type, quantity, origin, management arrangements and destination of food waste. An annual environmental report (AER) may be prepared by a producer in response to a notification by a local authority. It would contain the quantities of food supplied to customers; quantities of food waste consigned to biological treatment, other methods of treatment or discarded as waste; and measures proposed and/or adopted to reduce food waste.
Interestingly the AER has to include measures that the waste producer adopted to reduce food waste in the first place. Businesses already using a brown bin service in Ireland found initially that by source separating food waste and weighing it (brown bin service in Ireland is charged on a per kilo basis), were astounded by how much food waste they generate. This led some businesses to examine ways to prevent food waste such as food portion control and buying already prepared food (e.g. potatoes peeled).
The use of in-sink macerators are indirectly curtailed. The Regulations state that the output from an in-sink macerator cannot be disposed of into the sewer system.
While the Regulations came into force on January 1, 2010, the main requirements -segregating food waste, use of a brown bin collection service/treating on-site, constraints on in-sink macerators – is not obligatory until July 1, 2010.
Under the new rules, waste producers can save money as they avoid the landfill levy because the food waste is not disposed. For waste collectors, it evens the playing field as all collectors have to jump together at the same time and provide a brown bin service. Processors have the certainty that feedstock will be available to turn food waste into quality compost and digestate. More importantly, as was pointed out at a Biowaste Industry Investment Summit hosted by Cré (Ireland’s composting association) last year, this legislation gives banks and investment groups the security to provide capital to build the infrastructure to process the food waste in this very uncertain economic climate.

New Initiatives In 2010
Beside the source separation legislation, the Government of Ireland announced many new initiatives that will divert significant quantities of organic waste during 2010. These initiatives include:
• The landfill levy will be increased in a stepped effect over the next two years. By February 2010 the landfill levy will have been increased to €30 ($41.84)/metric ton and will increase to €50 ($69.73)/metric ton in 2011 and €75 ($104.59)/metric ton in 2012;
• An incineration levy of €20-38 ($27.89-52.99/metric ton will be introduced. Section 60 Notice will restrict the amount of waste that can be sent to incineration;
• The Environmental Protection Agency Guidance on Pretreatment of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to Landfill will restrict the amount of biodegradable municipal waste to landfill. It will have to be stabilized to a standard by composting/anaerobic digestion to meet the requirements of the Directive and avoid the landfill levy. This comes into effect on July 1, 2010;
• The Government Green Enterprise Action Group published its report and over the next six months, the Prime Minister will be overseeing the implementation of its recommendations. Some of the recommendations are aligning the renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) with Northern Ireland, examining legislation to allow an easier trading of waste across the border;
• REFIT guarantees the price of electricity produced from anaerobic digestion plants for 15 years; and
• Review of Waste Management Policy: Some of the 26 recommendations:
National legislation that collectors of household waste provide a “weekly collection of food waste”; Legislation that household recycling centers have facilities for collection of garden/park waste; and Targets for the quantity of “residual waste” from households in a local authority area. If exceeded, the local authority will be fined €50 ($69.73)/metric ton.

Emerging Trends
There is significant interest among compost facilities in Ireland to expand by adding an anaerobic digestion plant to treat food waste followed by composting the digestate. Due to the interest of Cré members in this technology, they will be formally consulted to widen the scope of Cré to include anaerobic digestion.
With all these new policy changes in the waste sector, there are many new business opportunities for entrepreneurs. Cré and the government agency “Enterprise Ireland” have teamed up to host a Global Forum on “International Waste to Resource Conference and Technology Brokerage Event” in Dublin later this year (further details will be available on to address the impacts and opportunities being created by the new policies. This forum will offer possible ways for businesses from America and other European countries to find partners within Ireland to market their technologies and to enable Ireland to process waste into valuable resources, divert waste from landfills to avoid EU fines, and most importantly, create many new jobs.

Percy Foster is the CEO of Cré-Composting Association of Ireland, which represents the composting and anaerobic digestion industry in Ireland. Copies of the reports mentioned in this article can be downloaded from

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