Worldwide millions of tonnes of food are wasted every year. Food waste is produced by both households and the commercial sector, in our homes, from restaurants, hotels, care facilities and educational facilities to name but a few.
Food waste is produced because we buy, cook and serve too much food in the daily course of our activities.
In Ireland over one million tonnes of food waste is disposed of each year. Around one third of this comes from households and the remainder comes from businesses.
While some of this food waste cannot be avoided the majority of it could be saved if we managed our food better. And this would save us all some money!
Legislation is now in place to ensure that food waste is managed in the most environmentally efficient manner.
Household Food Waste Management
As part of the implementation of the Household Food Waste Regulations, waste contractors are introducing brown bins to householders nationwide on a phased basis, starting with large cities and towns and cumulating by July 2016 in agglomerations of >500 people.
These regulations impose obligations on both the waste collectors and the householders in relation to food waste arising within the domestic sector. Waste collectors are obliged to provide a separate collection service for household waste and householders are obliged to segregate household food waste and keep it separate from other non-biodegradable waste.
Where have these Regulations come from?
Ireland has objectives under the Landfill Directive 99/31/EC to divert biodegradable waste from landfills. In addition, by 2016 we must have reduced our biodegradable waste to landfill to 35% of the biodegradable municipal waste produced in 1995. Failure to meet our targets will result in stiff penalties from the European Union.
The introduction of the regulations as well as the 2009 Commercial Food Waste Regulations will help meet these targets.
The Regulations are being implemented in agglomerations on a phased basis as follows:
01/07/13 Agglomerations > 25,000 persons
31/12/13 Agglomerations > 20,000 persons
01/07/14 Agglomerations > 10,000 persons
01/07/15 Agglomerations > 1,500 persons
01/07/16 Agglomerations > 500 persons
Role of Waste Collectors?
All authorised waste collectors must, from the 1st July 2013, provide a separate collection service for food waste and transfer the food waste to an authorised facility for treatment in accordance with the Regulations. Your waste collector is obligated under the Regulations to provide you with a brown bin and collection service.
Role of the Householder?
Once food waste has been segregated in the home, it must either be:
• placed in a brown bin for collection by an authorised collector or
• composted in a home composting process on your premises or
• brought to an authorised treatment facility
If a homeowner intends to treat their household organic waste through composting, all reasonable steps must be taken to minimise the creation of odours and nuisance.
The Cost of the Brown Bin
As all waste collection services in County Galway are privatised and waste collection services are provided by a number of various contractors, every contractor will have a different pricing structure and collection frequency. Therefore, you should contact your waste collector to ascertain the cost, if any.
What can I put into my brown bin?
Although it may vary slightly between waste collectors, the following items can be placed in the brown bin:
• Meat, poultry & fish
• Shellfish & bones
• Eggs & dairy products
• Plate scrapings & scraps
• Fruit & vegetables
• Bread & baked goods
• Grains & cereals
• Coffee grounds & tea bags
All food must be removed from packaging before it is placed in the brown bin, for example any food waste in glass, plastic or cardboard containers should be poured or scraped from the containers into the brown bin and then these containers should be rinsed and placed in the recyclable bin or brought to a glass collection point.
Householders should contact their waste collector to ascertain if they can collect grass, cuttings and other light garden waste.
Practical tips when using your brown bin:
• Ensure that the lid is closed at all times
• Ensure bin is presented for collection regularly
• Wash out the bin regularly
There are a number of compostable bin and caddy liners available that can be used in your bin, however you should check with your waste contractor if it is ok to use these. Some composting processes do not allow any type of liners.
Where does brown bin waste go?
When food waste is collected by your waste contractor from your home, it is brought to an authorised treatment facility for processing. Food waste and bio-waste is a resource that can be processed at either a composting or anaerobic digestion facility to produce different grades of compost or digestate.
Can I put plastic bags into my brown bin?
Compostable bags can be used to line your brown bin or kitchen caddy. There is sometimes confusion between compostable and bio-degradable bags, but generally the main difference is the length of time it takes to decompose, compostable bags will degrade in 4 to 6 weeks whereas bio-degradable bags will take in the region of 18 months. Bio-degradable bags are very suitable as an alternative to plastic bags which can take hundreds of years to break down.
Should I carry on home composting?
Yes, home composting is a great way to deal with all your plant based food waste e.g. fruit and vegetable peelings, tea leaves, teabags and coffee grinds, eggshells, etc. There may, however, be a certain amount of your food waste that you may not like to compost at home, particularly items such as raw or cooked meats, as these may attract vermin if not composted correctly. Careful consideration should be given on how you will deal with this fraction of food waste. You will be in compliance with the Regulations as long as you can demonstrate to Local Authority personnel that you are dealing with your food waste thorough one of the options outlined in the Household Food Waste and Biowaste Regulations 2013.
Householders living in areas excluded under the Regulations
If you would like to avail of a brown bin but live in an area excluded as detailed in the Regulations your should contact your waste collector to establish if they can provide a service to you. Alternatively, home composting can be a viable option.
Is organic and residual waste collection in the same truck?
Some collection trucks have dual compartments whereby two types of waste, for example, recyclable and organic waste, can be collected simultaneously. However, if you have any concerns as to how your waste is collected, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 091-509510.
How can I reduce my food waste?
Last year in Ireland our food waste mountain was at least 1 million tonnes. Unfortunately food waste is generated at every step of food production – from factory to farm to shop to home. It is estimated that the average household throws out over one third of the food we buy, unused! The cost of this food wasted for the average Irish household is estimated to be between €700 and €1000 per year. To reduce this amount of food waste, we must stop, think and act! In recent years numerous studies have been carried out to determine why we waste food and you might be surprised to know that:
• 60% of food waste is food we bought or cooked but didn’t eat such as plate scrapings, left-overs and special offers;
• 20% of food waste could be avoided such as bread crusts, potato skins etc but will require a change in behaviour and habits are hard to break;
• 20% is unavoidable food waste such as banana skins, bones etc.
So if you are interested in saving money and preventing food waste why not start with tackling the 60% of avoidable food waste that the average Irish home generates? Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Leftovers - keep to a minimum by only cooking what you need and using serving bowls to avoid plate scrapings;
• Partially used food - this includes unused food and leftovers which stay in the fridge until thrown away - try and get into the habit of using today’s left-overs for tomorrows lunch - tasty and free!
• Passed its best before date - this usually impacts everyday items such as bread, veg and milk that waste away quickly, to avoid this make better use of your freezer or avoid buying too much to start with.
• Food gone off - smelt bad, looked bad, tasted bad? Avoid this happening by always making a shopping list; regularly tidying your fridge so older food is put at the front & gets used up first.
• Change of plans - this happens but if you can manage the food you were going to use quickly then it can still be part of your future.
European Union (Household Food Waste and Bio-waste) Regulations 2013
Commercial Food Waste Regulations
The Waste Management (Food Waste) Regulations 2009 have taken effect in Ireland since 1st July 2010. These Regulations are designed to promote the segregation and recovery of food waste arising in the commercial sector and the main provisions of the Regulations have taken effect from 1st July 2010.
The Regulations will result in an increase in the amount of food waste that is recovered and in particular, the Regulations will facilitate the achievement of the targets set out in the Landfill Directive for the diversion of Biodegradable Municipal Waste from landfill.
Purpose of the Regulations
All producers of food waste have to source-segregate food waste, ensure that it is not mixed with other waste and ensure that it is removed from the landfill stream. Examples of producers include:
• Hot Food Outlets
• Public Houses where food is supplied
• Guesthouses > 4 bedrooms
• State Buildings
• Educational Facilities
• Hostels > 4 bedrooms
• Hospitals and Nursing Homes
Where food waste arises on a premises it must be source-segregated and kept separate from other waste or materials. The segregated food waste must NOT be sent to landfill for disposal by the producer, the waste collector or any other person, nor may it be deposited in the residual waste bin. Instead it must be treated through an authorised treatment process which will recover the waste. Food waste must be handled through one of the following options:
Collected by an authorised waste collector and transferred for an authorised treatment process, e.g. compost facility or anaerobic digestion plant
Transferred directly by the producer for the purpose of an authorised treatment process, e.g. compost facility
Subjected to an authorised treatment process on the premises where the food waste has been produced, for example an on-site composting unit. Prior to the development of any on-site treatment facility contact should be made with your Local Authority and/or the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to determine if there is a licensing requirement.
Treating Food Waste On-Site
Some businesses may decide to treat their food waste on the premises. Kitchen and canteen waste, including meat, can be treated on-site by using the appropriate process, but must be done in accordance with the Waste Management (Facility and Certificate of Registration) Regulations 2007. Food waste can only be treated at a facility that has the appropriate food waste processing authorisation, for example:
• Certificate of Registration
• Waste Facility Permit
• Waste Licence
Waste collectors are obliged to inform the relevant Local Authority of persons who are refusing to avail of a source-segregated food waste collection service if available.