Bio-waste includes all organic waste such as food, animal by-products, and garden debris such as leaves and grass cuttings. As a nation we produce a massive amount of bio-waste all of which needs to be disposed of sustainably.
In the past, most of our bio-waste used to be sent straight to landfill but with large scale composting and more developed processes like anaerobic digestion, we are seeing a huge increase in the amount that is recycled. Treatment includes making compost for gardens and parks as well as producing heat and energy that can be utilised by local communities, including electricity for the national grid.
Most councils nowadays have their own bio-waste handling facilities and domestic homes are provided with food bins and garden bags that can be collected on a weekly basis. Commercial enterprises such as supermarkets also have better procedures in place today for dealing with such waste. This includes sending food that is near its sell by day to local charities and food banks rather than to landfill.
Types of Bio-Waste
According to some estimates, every individual in the UK produces around 190 Kg of bio-waste each year. That amounts to a collective waste production of around 1.3 billion tonnes. Much of this can be recycled to produce valuable fertiliser as well as heat and energy. Domestically, the majority of our bio-waste comes from food preparation and gardening in the home. Of course, businesses including supermarkets and the agricultural industry have bigger problems with disposing of their waste.
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The waste hierarchy informs how we deal with our bio-waste and that includes making every attempt to prevent producing it in the first place. For most food and garden waste that we do produce, the only option is to send it to composting though a significant amount still ends up on landfill even today. The use of composting and other more hi-tech solutions such as anaerobic digestion, which uses bacteria to break down bio-waste, increasingly form an important part of management. The effective management of bio-waste is one of the biggest challenges we all face in the modern world as consumption increases.
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From garden bags and composting bins to food shredders and AD facilities, there is plenty of equipment associated with bio-waste management. Councils now have their own composting facilities for handling this kind of waste. These are either in-vessel structures where the bio-waste is enclosed and carefully managed or windrow composting which is open and takes longer to decompose and is more suitable for garden waste. At home, you can use wood chippers and domestic compost bins while for more commercial ventures there are thermophilic and mesophilic anaerobic digesters that can be used to create strong fertilisers and biogas.
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Legislation and Bio-Waste
Most common food and garden waste are covered under the EU Waste Management Directive and legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act 1995. In many places in the UK it is now an offence to include bio-waste such as food in your general waste disposal bins. Waste types like animal by-products (ABPs) necessarily come with greater legal restrictions. ABPs are usually separated into categories that define how they should be dealt with and what they can be used for. Only low risk category animal by products can, for instance, be used for livestock feed.
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Most domestic properties across the UK have council collections for food and garden waste and much of this goes to special facilities for composting. Commercial enterprises have a duty of care to make sure they handle their own waste appropriately. This may require the hiring of a specialist contractor with the facilities to either compost or anaerobically digest the waste that needs to be handled. The onus is on the producer to make sure that they choose a licensed service that is registered to deal with a particular kind of bio-waste and keep an audit trail of how the waste has been handled.
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