Legislation and Bio-Waste
Bio-waste includes any organic matter that can be broken down using methods such as composting and anaerobic digestion. In the UK we normally consider it as products such as food and agricultural waste – the vegetables and meats that we discard, the food that goes out of date at our local supermarket or the garden waste we produce around our homes and in our parks.
The main pieces of legislation, largely supported by the EU Waste Framework Directive, that cover the management of bio-waste are:
- Environmental Protection Act 1990
- Controlled Waste Regulations 2012
- Hazardous Waste Directive 2011
- Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations
Specific areas such as animal by-products have their own, more nuanced, legal requirements for which both producers and those who dispose of these materials have to adhere to. This includes having the right processing facilities in place, and the appropriate permits and licenses.
The main thrust of waste disposal legislation is the duty of care that needs to be demonstrated by businesses and industries such as agriculture. This generally means that a business has to make every effort to dispose of their waste in a way that is compatible with the waste hierarchy. Bio-waste is no different.
Bio-Waste and the Waste Hierarchy
As with any form of waste disposal, bio-waste, particularly that created from food and in the garden, should be governed by the waste hierarchy. For homeowners, the concept of preventing waste in the first place is now fairly well ingrained, as is giving waste to the council for recycling or having our own processes in place such as composting bins in the garden.
For commercial ventures, their duty of care under the Environmental Protection Act 1995 means that there are naturally greater consequences when it comes to creating and disposing of waste. Failure to manage bio-waste properly can lead to prosecution and large fines.
Supermarkets and Food Waste
Many European countries are beginning to change their legislation to make sure that supermarkets dispose of their unsold food products to charities rather than spoiling it and sending to composting when the sell by date is reached. In the UK, no such legislation is in place though there have been moves to make this a voluntary practice by large corporations and many supermarkets are now changing.
Supermarkets and restaurants all need to make sure that they dispose of their food waste responsibly. Over the years, the amount of food waste we send to landfill has been gradually decreasing as disposal methods such as anaerobic digestion and composting become the norm rather than the exception. Supermarkets are legally bound to make sure that the food and bio-degradable waste that they produce is disposed of sustainably and need to provide the relevant documentation that shows what, where and how of waste management in all areas.
Animal By Products (ABPs) and Legislation
Much more restrictive legislation is in place for animal by-products or ABPs across the EU and the UK. ABPs can include everything from animal carcasses to egg shells and each type of waste falls into a specific legal category which determines how they are disposed of.
- Category 1 ABPs are high risk foodstuffs and cannot be sent to landfill or used in animal feed. Disposal methods include incineration and pressure sterilisation.
- Category 2 ABPs are medium risk and can be legally sent to landfill but cannot by law be used as animal feed. Disposal methods include incineration and landfill but also composting and anaerobic digestion to make fuel and fertiliser.
- Category 3 ABPs are the lowest risk foods and can be sent to landfill or used in animal feed. This can be disposed of in a variety ways including making pet food and sending to composting.
Also known as clinical waste, this has plenty of legislation attached to its disposal including The Hazardous Waste Directive 2011 and The Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations. Medical bio-waste requires specialist collection services or onsite incineration equipment that reduce any potential harm to the environment or humans.
Find out more about bio-waste management.