Composting and Anaerobic Digestion of waste continues to grow in 2015

Date released: May 03 2016

  • The quantity of biodegradable waste accepted for composting and anaerobic digestion increased by 11 per cent between 2013 and 2015.
  • Kitchen & canteen food waste and park & garden waste accounted for the majority (65%) of waste accepted for treatment in 2015.
  • Most biodegradable waste was treated by composting rather than anaerobic digestion.
  • The amount of municipal organic waste exported to Northern Ireland for treatment increased almost eight-fold between 2013 and 2015.

The EPA has today released 2015 figures on composting and anaerobic digestion of biodegradable waste in Ireland, coinciding with the opening of the Global Organic Resources Congress in Dublin.

The quantity of biodegradable waste sent for composting and anaerobic digestion increased by 11 per cent between 2013 and 2015 (from 271,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes). In 2015 65 per cent of biodegradable waste came from municipal sources (kitchen & canteen food waste, garden & park waste), 16 per cent from waste water treatment plant sludges and 8 per cent from the production of beverages.

Composting and anaerobic digestion of “brown-bin” commercial and household organic waste continues to increase, with 143,000 tonnes accepted in 2015, an increase of 25 per cent on the 2013 level. The figures also show an increasing trend towards exporting “brown-bin” waste for recovery in Northern Ireland, with 22 per cent (31,000 tonnes) of total “brown-bin” waste generated being exported there.

Commenting on the figures, Stephen Treacy, EPA, said:

“The EPA welcomes the increasing amount of biodegradable waste being recovered at composting and anaerobic digestion facilities. In addition to the jobs created, energy recovery (biogas generated at anaerobic digestion plants) can help displace fossil fuel imports. Anaerobic digestion uptake is low by international standards but is an important part of the mix of solutions if we are to decarbonise our society by 2050.”

Stephen Treacy added,

“Timely figures such as those published today on treatment of organic waste are an important tool for stakeholders and policymakers. The segregation and recovery of biodegradable waste rather than its disposal to landfill is critical for Ireland’s move to a circular economy. The increasing roll out of the brown - organic waste - bin to householders and commercial premises will contribute to this positive development.”

The 2015 information on Composting and Anaerobic Digestion in Ireland is now available on the EPA website.


Notes to Editor:

The EPA’s information on Composting and Anaerobic Digestion in Ireland in 2013 (Bulletin 4: Compost and anaerobic digestion statistics for 2013) was published in 2014 and is also available on the EPA website.

Composting is the breakdown of the organic fraction of waste material by micro-organisms in controlled, aerobic (oxygenated) conditions. The end product is compost; a dark, nutrient-rich soil conditioner.

The process of Anaerobic Digestion involves the breakdown of organic matter by micro-organisms and enzymes in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment. The end product is biogas and a digestate residue.

Circular economy: In a circular economy the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible; waste and resource use are minimised, and resources are kept within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, to be used again and again to create further value. To facilitate the move to a more circular economy, the European Commission put forward a Circular Economy Package in December 2015, which includes revised legislative proposals on waste, as well as a comprehensive Action Plan.

Municipal waste means household waste as well as commercial and other waste that because of its nature or composition is similar to household waste. It excludes municipal sludges and effluents.

Residual waste is the fraction of collected municipal waste (typically household and commercial black-bin) that isn’t or can’t be separated for recycling (either as dry recyclables or organic waste). Residual wastes also arise from the mechanical and biological treatment of wastes and are the fraction that cannot be recycled.

Recovery means any operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfill that function, in the plant or in the wider economy. Annex II of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) sets out a non-exhaustive list of recovery operations, which includes material recovery (i.e. recycling), energy recovery (i.e. use a fuel (other than in direct incineration) or other means to generate energy) and biological recovery (e.g. composting).

Recycling means any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations.