Nearly 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU (estimate for 2012). If nothing is done, food waste could rise to over 120 million tonnes by 2020. Wasting food is not only an ethical and economic issue but it also depletes the environment of limited natural resources.
Food waste is potentially the largest un-tapped recyclable component of the municipal waste stream and there are mature and available recovery techniques in place to deal with it, such as composting and anaerobic digestion.
The European Union (Household Food Waste and Bio-waste) Regulations 2015, (initial legislation introduced in April 2013) build on the commercial food waste regulations introduced in 2009 and are designed to promote the segregation and recovery of household food waste, in line with the national policy and the Waste Framework Directive objectives of maximising the resource which can be extracted from waste and minimising the disposal of waste. They will increase the amount of food waste that is recovered through the production of energy, compost and digestate, thereby creating opportunities for added jobs and value. The Regulations will also facilitate the achievement of the targets set out in the Landfill Directive (Directive 99/31/EC) for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill sites, by directing source-segregated household food waste to composting and to other forms of treatment.
The Regulations impose obligations on both householders and waste collectors. Householders are obliged to segregate their food waste, and make it available for separate collection. Alternatively householders may compost the food waste at home; or bring it themselves to authorised treatment facilities (such as civic amenity sites or anaerobic digestion sites).
In accordance with the regulatory impact assessment prepared for these regulations, the roll-out of the brown bin is being phased in on a progressive basis, and began on 1st July 2013. As of July 2017, brown bins will be rolled out to population centres greater than 500 persons, i.e. to most towns and villages. Only very small population areas, or small islands, will be exempt, because it is not technically, environmentally or economically practical to separately collect such waste in these areas.