Food for Thought not Landfill

March 26, 2015

Potential big changes on the horizon for Councils, Waste Industry, Food producers and Households

The Food Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 came into operation on 14th February 2015. The Regulations provide for the separate collection and subsequent treatment of food waste and require district councils to provide receptacles for the separate collection of food waste from households, place a duty on food businesses producing in excess of 5kg of food waste per week to present food waste for separate collection and place a duty on business to ensure food waste is not deposited in a lateral drain or sewer.

The reforms support efficient energy recovery from residual waste which can deliver environmental benefits, reduce carbon impacts and provide economic opportunities. Once the food waste has been collected, in order to maximise the environmental and economic advantages, it is likely to be dealt with under the two main methods which are already used in Northern Ireland; in-vessel composting (IVC) or anaerobic digeston (AD).

The Food Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 make the following regulatory measures:

1. Separate collection of food waste

(a) Businesses
It will be a statutory requirement for all food waste producers to present food waste for collection separately from all other waste. This is targeted at those involved in food production, food retail or food preparation who produce more than 5 kg of food waste per week. To comply with this duty it is necessary to have a separate dedicated container for the collection of food waste.

Moreover, the waste collectors and carriers now have a duty to provide a suitable collection service to their customers and to ensure that it is not contaminated by other wastes after collection.

The proposed date for implementation for medium to large businesses is 1 April 2016. For small businesses and hospitals the implementation date is 1 April 2017.

(b) Households

The Regulations require that from 1st April 2017 the district councils shall provide every domestic property in their area with a receptacle for the separate collection of food waste. Currently, eighteen councils offer a food waste collection service of some description, with most offering food waste alongside organic waste collection. Consequently it will be a significant change for district councils.

The Department’s preference is completely separate collection of food waste but they do concede that there may be some cases where collection of food and garden waste together can provide a similar environmental outcome. Therefore, where this is the case, the collection of co-mingled biowaste will be permitted.

2. Ban on mixing separately collected food waste

The Regulations provide for a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit licence for waste management to include conditions prohibiting the mixing of separately collected food waste with any other waste. It shall be an offence to contaminate the collected food waste.

3. Landfill ban on separately collected food waste

This ban prohibits the disposal of separately collected food waste in landfills. The removal of food waste already mixed with other waste will not be required. Landfill permits shall include conditions to prohibit operators from accepting separately collected food waste. This ban will come into effect on 1st April 2015.

4. The discharge of food waste into the public sewer network

From 1st April 2017 there shall be a ban on non-domestic food waste being discharged directly into the public sewer network. The rationale is to ensure full use of the resource and to prevent the problems that disposal of food waste can have on the sewer network.

These proposals will require changes to be made by different bodies. Businesses will have to provide their own receptacle for the disposal of food waste. Moreover, the use of macerators where the food waste is going directly into the sewer network will have to end. District Councils will be obliged to provide every household in their area with a receptacle for the separate collection of food waste.

Those involved in waste management and transport will have to ensure that separately collected food waste is not contaminated with other waste as it will be a requirement under their PPC licence. In addition they will have to record if the collected waste from businesses includes any food or other waste which has been separately collected on a waste transfer note. Landfill operators will be committing an offence if they allow separately collected food waste to be disposed of at their landfill sites.

It is anticipated that these changes will lead to economic gains and environmental benefits in the longterm. While it may cause extra costs for businesses and councils in the short term it should be noted that once the preparations for the regulations are in place the proposals should be easily adhered to.

Please contact Cleaver Fulton Rankin on 028 9024 3141 or alternatively visit www.cfrlaw.co.uk

Please note: The content of this article is for information purposes only and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor before any action is taken.