EPA Welcomes Increase in Composting and Anaerobic Digestion of Waste

  • The EPA welcomes the increase in composting and anaerobic digestion of biodegradable waste – the quantity recycled increased by 15 per cent between 2015 and 2016.
  • Kitchen & canteen food waste and park & garden waste accounted for most of the waste accepted for treatment in 2016 (65 per cent).
  • Composting rather than anaerobic digestion was the dominant treatment type.

The EPA has released data and information on composting and anaerobic digestion in Ireland for 2016. The data updates the National Waste Statistics web resource, launched by the EPA in recent months.

Commenting on the figures, Stephen Treacy, EPA, said:

“The EPA welcomes the increase in the amount of biodegradable waste being accepted for recycling at composting and anaerobic digestion plants. Ireland’s national waste management policy “A Resource Opportunity” aims to make the most of opportunities to recover resources from waste in line with the European Commission’s Circular Economy Strategy. Segregating and separately collecting biodegradable wastes such as food and garden waste means that they can be recycled and reduces the amount disposed to landfill.”

EPA figures show that the amount of waste accepted at commercial composting and anaerobic digestion plants increased by 15 per cent between 2015 and 2016 (from 308,000 tonnes to 353,000 tonnes). Composting was the dominant treatment activity (79 per cent of tonnage accepted).

Waste collectors are required to provide brown bins to ensure that waste food is collected separately. In 2016, 174,000 tonnes of brown bin waste were accepted at composting and anaerobic digestion facilities for treatment, an increase of 22 per cent on 2015. Twelve per cent more households had an organic bin in 2016 compared to 2015 and this is a positive outcome from the implementation of the 2013 household food waste regulations. The amount of brown bin waste being exported to Northern Ireland for recovery rose again in 2016, by over 80 per cent.

Stephen Treacy concluded by explaining the co-benefits of anaerobic digestion,

“Anaerobic digestion extracts additional value from organic waste due to the possibility of using the captured biogas. This not only mitigates the effect on climate change but the biogas can displace fossil fuel use, increasing the amount of renewables being used in Ireland.”

The 2016 information on Composting and Anaerobic Digestion is now available on the EPA website.

Notes:

This release reports information on composting and anaerobic digestion in 2016 at commercial facilities that accept biodegradable waste generated in Ireland and treated in Ireland and abroad. The figures do not include (i) home composting estimates (ii) facilities where only waste generated on-site was treated on-site and (iii) waste imported for treatment.

Composting is the breakdown of the organic fraction of waste material by micro-organisms in controlled, aerobic (oxygenated) conditions. The end product is compost; a dark, nutrient-rich soil conditioner.
The process of anaerobic digestion involves the breakdown of organic matter by micro-organisms and enzymes in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. The end product is biogas and a digestate residue.

Brown bin refers to a source segregated waste collection system where organics (food waste, garden waste) are separately collected. The ‘Household Food Waste and Bio-Waste Regulations 2015’ require all waste collectors to provide a brown bin for food/organic waste in agglomerations with a population greater than 500 people.

Municipal waste means household waste as well as commercial and other waste that because of its nature or composition is similar to household waste. It excludes municipal sludges and effluents.

Recovery means any operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfill that function, in the plant or in the wider economy. Annex II of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) sets out a non-exhaustive list of recovery operations, which includes material recovery (i.e. recycling), energy recovery (i.e. use a fuel (other than in direct incineration) or other means to generate energy) and biological recovery (e.g. composting).

Recycling means any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations.

Circular economy: In a circular economy, the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible; waste and resource use are minimised, and resources are kept within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, to be used again and again to create further value. To facilitate the move to a more circular economy, the European Commission put forward a Circular Economy Package in December 2015, which includes revised legislative proposals on waste, as well as a comprehensive Action Plan.

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