Municipal Waste Pre-Treatment

In Summer 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its standard for minimum acceptable pre-treatment for Municipal Solid Waste accepted for landfilling or incineration at EPA licensed waste activities.  The guidance set out in that document is intended to assist the delivery of Ireland’s obligations under the EU Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), the EU Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC), and the EU IPPC Directive (96/61/EC), including national policy as articulated in the National Biodegradable Waste Strategy (DoEHLG, 2006) (see links below).

The municipal solid waste (MSW) pre-guidance requires operators of landfill and incineration facilities to demonstrate via their waste acceptance policy (as established by licence conditions) that waste accepted at these facilities has been subjected to appropriate pre-treatment. The guidance supports government and EU policy in respect of the role of source segregated waste collection (e.g. see Articles 11 and 22 of the new EU Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC).  The EPA believes that such collection is best placed to maximise waste recovery options and recyclates value, as well as ensuring diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill.

In addition to the source segregation and separate collections ambitions articulated in the new EU Waste Framework Directive, the EU, via the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC), sets out a number of obligations in relation to waste acceptance at different classes of landfills. One of the main acceptance obligations is that operators of landfills are not permitted to accept waste unless it has been pre-treated (including diversion). These waste diversion and pre-treatment obligations are set out in Articles 5 and 6 of the Landfill Directive.

In accordance with Article 6 of the Landfill Directive and via the obligations in their waste licences, landfill operators are expected to be able to demonstrate that all waste accepted at the landfill has been subjected to pre-treatment. This is binding from 16th July 2001 for any facilities commenced since that date; and imposes a binding obligation effective on the 16th July 2009 for all landfill facilities operational at the time of transposition of the Directive (16th July 2001).  Article 5 of the Directive sets out a requirement for Member States to establish a national strategy for the reduction of biodegradable waste going to landfills. In addition, Article 5 of the Landfill Directive sets out specific pre-treatment obligations for Biodegradable Municipal Waste (BMW). These BMW diversion obligations are a sub-set of the waste treatment requirements, and have specific limitations in respect of the tonnage of BMW that can be accepted at landfills. These limitations – which are tied to the 1995 statistical base year for waste production in Ireland – are phased, with each phase possessing a stricter obligation in relation to diversion. Ireland negotiated with the EU Commission for a four-year extension to the first two compliance dates specified in Article 5 (2006 to 2010, and 2009 to 2013 respectively).

These obligations can be summarised as follows:

  • By 16th July 2010 Ireland can only landfill a maximum 75% of the BMW generated in 1995
  • By 16th July 2013 Ireland can only landfill a maximum 50% of the BMW generated in 1995
  • By 16th July 2016 Ireland can only landfill a maximum 35% of the BMW generated in 1995

In responding to these obligations the EPA has prepared a series of MSW Pre-Treatment related guidance documents for EPA licensees as well as for the waste management industry in general.   

Guidance Documents

MSW Pre-Treatment   

Learn More

National Waste Statistics - Reports & Bulletins
MSW Characterisation

Other Relevant Documents

National Strategy on Biodegradable Waste 
European Union Waste Framework Directive (2008)
European Union Landfill Directive 

Further Information

Waste Policy:  Dr Jonathan Derham  j.derham@epa.ie

Waste Pre-treatment Enforcement/compliance issues contact the EPA Waste Enforcement technical team at EPA Cork Office on telephone ++353 (0)214875540