Amount of food waste going to landfill is rising says EPA report


NEW BYLAWS must be introduced to stop increasing volumes of household and commercial food waste from being dumped in landfill, the Environmental Protection Agency has said.

Ireland is facing millions of euro in fines from the EU if it fails to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill by 35 per cent next year.

According to the latest figures from the EPA 1,485,968 tonnes of biodegradable waste were dumped in landfill in 2007. The maximum quantity allowed by the EU landfill directive in 2010 will be 967,433 tonnes.

Despite the looming directive, and the call on local authorities by Minister for the Environment John Gormley to introduce brown organic waste bins, the amount of food waste going to landfill is rising according to EPA figures.

Less than 9 per cent of organic waste, largely food and some garden waste, was saved from landfill in 2007 and the quantity of biodegradable waste dumped in landfill increased by more than 5 per cent on 2006 figures, moving Ireland further away from the EU target, the EPA said.

Organic waste was the largest component material in black bins collected from households in 2008, accounting for one third of general waste collected from households and sent straight to landfill without segregation.

This level of food and garden waste going to landfill was “very disappointing” the report said.

The report did note however, that Mr Gormley last year asked local authorities to intensify the roll out of brown bins, and that this, along with legislation requiring the separate collection of commercial biodegradable waste, may show an improvement in the recovery figures.

However, the report said all necessary infrastructure for the separate collection and treatment of organic and other biodegradable waste must be in place early in 2010 if the EU targets are to be met. Bylaws should also be introduced to enforce the segregation of food waste from households and commercial premises.

“The report clearly shows that Ireland is in danger of missing a key EU target for diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill,” EPA director Laura Burke said.

“Urgent and short-term actions are required in 2009 to tackle the generation and recycling of food waste from households and businesses if we are to meet the 2010 target for diverting an additional half a million tonnes of this waste from landfill,” she said.

The report found that Ireland has made significant progress in other areas of recycling in 2007. The recycling of municipal waste (which includes household waste and commercial, industrial and street cleaning waste with a similar composition to household waste) increased by 3.6 per cent to 36 per cent, exceeding the 2013 target of 35 per cent municipal waste recycling.

The quantity of household waste recycled increased by 8 per cent to 26 per cent, however this still fell far short of the 50 per cent recycling target by 2013. Some 64 per cent of packaging waste was recycled, exceeding the EU target of 60 per cent recycling by 2011.

Ireland was also making progress in relation to implementing the Weee (waste electrical and electronic equipment) directive. In 2007 8.7kgs of Weee was collected per capita, more than double the EU target of 4kg per capita.

Responding to the report Mr Gormley said he intended to bring forward draft regulations to help divert commercially-generated biodegradable waste from landfill and would introduce legislation to increase landfill levies.