Types of Bio-Waste
Bio-waste includes a wide range of vegetable, food and biologically degradable waste. This can mean anything from the left over scraps on our dinner plates to grass cuttings and other plant debris collected from the garden; it can even include paper and some degradable plastics.
Restaurants and supermarkets produce their own fair share of bio-waste as do many industrial and agricultural operations. The sludge from waste water treatments can also considered bio-waste.
It’s estimated that in the UK we each produce in the region of 190 Kg of bio-waste deposits every year. This can all be recycled or repurposed by using methods such as composting and anaerobic digestion. As our technology improves we are able to not only create valuable fertilizer but can even produce heat and electricity for local use. This has seen a major change from the times when bio-waste was simply sent to landfill.
According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), we waste almost a third of the food we produce, amounting to 1.3 billion tonnes a year. A large part of this is vegetable waste, whether that’s products which don’t meet the grade to go into our shops to the products we simply don’t use at home and just throw away. Just as we dispose of a large amount of vegetable waste, though, the same can be said for animal by products. This comes mainly down to our attitudes and the consumer society where food products are readily and cheaply available. For homes as well as business, managing and making sure that this kind of waste is recycled properly is highly important.
As far as businesses are concerned, food waste may be sent to disposal for several reasons:
- In shops and supermarkets because it has gone past the sell by date.
- Food that is visually not perfect or has arrived in damaged packaging.
- Food that has become spoiled or is beginning to decompose.
Government standards stipulate that there are foods which present high, medium or low risks. This will determine whether the route they follow in bio-waste management, for example, whether they are used for animal feed or sent for other repurposing methods such as creating fertilizer or even energy production via composting and anaerobic processes.
Garden waste can be considered anything bio-degradable that is produced in the home or in parks including flowers, grass clippings, hedge trimmings and other debris. Food and garden waste is normally collected by councils as part of their general waste disposal services and is then taken for composting.
One area of waste management that has improved with better legislation over the last few years is that of animal by-products or ABPs. These include animal carcasses as well as animal parts that are not intended for human consumption. These food types are split into three categories:
- Category 1 ABPs: These are high risk animal by products that could present a serious risk to the human population or have contaminates that could be transmitted to other animals. It also includes animals that have been used in experimentation as well as those from zoos and circuses.
- Category 2 ABPs: These are medium risk and includes products that, for example, have been refused by an abattoir because of infection or something like manure and digestive tract content.
- Category 3 ABPs: These are low risk animal by products such as food waste and ABPs like animal hides and skins.
The disposal of animal by-products is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world and there are strict guidelines for businesses that deal in this area of bio-waste disposal.
Waste management in agriculture was until fairly recently excluded from waste handling legislation. Nowadays, there are not only financial benefits but ecological ones for farms across the UK to manage their bio-waste more effectively. That includes new processes such as anaerobic digestion which can not only produce valuable fertilizer but also create heat and electricity too. Around 43 million tonnes of manure and slurry waste are produced by the agriculture industry every year which are generally used as fertilizers for the land. This is an increasingly important aspect of all farms across the UK.
Bio-medical or clinical waste is any waste produced within our hospitals, GP practices, research facilities and even veterinary practices that needs to be disposed of according to current legislation. This is generally considered harmful to humans and requires specialist storage and handling.
Find out more about clinical waste management.