Biodegradable municipal waste to landfill

EPA waste data release, 31 March 2022

The Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) sets targets for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) from landfill. BMW comprises those elements of the municipal waste that will rot or degrade biologically, including food waste, garden and parks waste, waste paper and cardboard. The diversion of BMW helps to reduce odour nuisance and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, and lessens landfill aftercare burden.

Key trends 

  • The quantity of BMW disposed to landfill was 104,255 tonnes in 2020 and 109,384  tonnes in 2021. These are well within Ireland’s current limit of 427,000 tonnes, which is calculated based on the tonnage of BMW landfilled in 1995 (1.3 million tonnes).
  • As shown in Figure 1, the quantities of BMW disposed to landfill in Ireland have been on a largely downward trend since 2010 (notwithstanding a slight increase in 2021 compared with 2020).
  • Ireland has met all previous BMW diversion targets and is well in compliance with the stricter target for 2020 under the revised Landfill Directive (2018/850), as shown in Figure 1.
  • The decline in BMW to landfill since 2010 reflects a combination of factors - falling quantities of municipal waste sent for landfill in Ireland; the increased separate collection of dry recylables and biowaste; and the fact that most residual waste in Ireland is now pre-treated mechanically and/or bio-stabilised at waste facilities before it is sent to landfill.
  • The quantity of municipal waste treated at landfill in Ireland has declined markedly from 1.5 million tonnes in 2010 to 317,000 tonnes in 2020, before increasing slightly to 352,000 tonnes in 2021 (based on First Look data reported by landfills). Only three landfills in Ireland accepted municipal waste in 2020 and 2021, compared with 28 in 2010.
  • The general decline in BMW to landfill is mirrored in steady rise in the quantity of municipal biowaste treated by composting/anaerobic digestion in Ireland which has increased significantly since 2010 with the introduction of the Food Waste Regulations and the associated roll-out of brown bins to commercial premises and households (see Composting and Anaerobic Digestion, Figure 3). The revised Waste Framework Directive ((EU) 2018/851) makes the separate collection of biowaste mandatory from the end-2023. This requirement is likley to result in a further decline in the BMW content of municipal waste landfilled in Ireland in the years ahead.
  • Table 1. BMW quantities to landfill

    Open in Excel: Table 1. BWM (XLS 11KB)

    Open in CSV : Table 1. BWM (CSV 11KB)