Biodegradable municipal waste to landfill

EPA waste data release, 05 March 2021

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 145,141 tonnes in 2019 and 104,255 tonnes in 2020. These are well within Ireland’s current limit of 610,000 tonnes, which is calculated based on the tonnage of BMW landfilled in 1995 (1.3 million tonnes).
  • The quantities of BMW to landfill in Ireland have decreased steadily since 2016, as shown in Figure 1.
  • Ireland has met all previous BMW diversion targets and is 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 reflects a combination of factors - the falling quantities of municipal waste sent for landfill in Ireland; the increased separate collection of biowaste with the roll-out of brown bins; 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.
  • As detailed in our Infrastructure tab, only three landfills in Ireland accepted municipal waste in 2020, compared with 28 in 2010. The quantity of municipal waste accepted at landfill in Ireland has declined markedly from 1.5 million tonnes in 2010 to 368,635 tonnes in 2019 and dropped again to 316,942 tonnes in 2020 (see First Look tab, Figure 1). The decrease in municipal residual waste disposed to landfill coincides with additional waste-to-energy capacity as Ireland’s second municipal waste incinerator came into operation in Q2 2017.
  • The decline in BMW to landfill is mirrored in the increase in the quantity of municipal biowaste accepted for composting/anaerobic digestion in Ireland (see Composting and Anaerobic Digestion tab, Figure 1), 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. The revised Waste Framework Directive ((EU) 2018/851) makes the separate collection of biowaste mandatory from the end-2023, which can be expected to result in further increases in the quantities of municipal biowaste collected and recycled in Ireland in the years ahead.
  • As outlined in our Infrastructure tab (Tables 4 and 5), Ireland had authorised capacity for composting, anaerobic digestion and biostabilisation of organic fines of 687,660 tonnes in 2019. It is essential that there is adequate composting and anaerobic treatment infrastructure in the State to manage the diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill and further increases in the separate collection of biowaste in Ireland in the years ahead. 
  • Table 1. BMW quantities to landfill

    Open in Excel: Table 1. BMW (XLS 12KB)