Countries in the European Union should make strong efforts to introduce separate collections for biodegradable waste in order to facilitate high quality recycling and anaerobic digestion (AD), according to a new communication from the European Commission.
The communication on future steps in bio-waste management, published on May 18, looks at ways in which EU member states may further tap into the significant environmental and economic benefits of bio-waste and comes less than a week after the new UK coalition Government promised to increase energy from waste through AD.
An important pre-condition for successful generation of energy through AD is a good quality of input to the process which, according to the communication, is in the majority of cases best achieved by separate collection.
As a result the communication states: “The Commission recommends that Member States make fullest use of the possibilities opened up by the Waste Framework Directive to introduce separate collection systems as a matter of priority.”
Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association chairman Lord Redesdale told MRW: “It was part of the coalition agreement that the UK should be increasing anaerobic digestion so collection of bio-waste would be a good source of feedstock for this. Councils have got to meet their targets to divert waste from landfill so many will have to start doorstep collections of food waste.”
Efficient systems based on source separation already exist in Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands but generally Member States have vastly different national policies on this and systems of separate collections can vary widely depending on the type of waste collected and the availability of treatment options.
The communication highlights the vast potential offered by successful management of bio-waste stating: “About one-third of the EU’s 2020 target for renewable energy in transport could be met by using biogas produced from bio-waste, while around 2% of the EU’s overall renewable energy target could be met if all bio-waste was turned into energy.”
As well as promoting separate collections, the communication also highlights other areas where, using existing legislation, the potential for successful management of bio-waste could be harnessed. These include ways to prevent the amount of biodegradable waste in the first instance by properly applying the waste hierarchy through to reducing the amount of bio-waste which is incinerated.
The Local Government Association responded to the communication by saying: “Local government recognises the importance of managing bio-waste in improving the efficient use of resources and tackling climate change through reducing methane emissions and generating renewable energy.”