Ireland improving on Composting and Anaerobic Digestion levels, but long way to go

Published by Dave Brooks on

May 3rd, 2016

The quantity of biodegradable waste that was sent for composting or Anaerobic Digestion (AD) increased in 2015 by 11% since 2013.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today released 2015 figures on composting and AD of biodegradable waste in Ireland.

While some organic waste came from waste water treatment processing plants and industry, the majority was from municipal sources. Of the 300,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste treated in 2015, 65% came from kitchen & canteen food waste and park & garden waste.

The quantity of “brown-bin” commercial and organic waste that was received also showed a significant increase of 25% since 2013. Referring to Ireland’s need to waste less and develop a more resource-efficient economy, Dr Ryan added: “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.” However, 22% (31,000 tonnes) of the total brown-bin waste generated in Ireland was exported to Northern Ireland, suggesting a lack of capacity for processing current quantities.

Most waste was broken down into compost rather than in AD, a process which generates biogas from decomposing organic material. Campaigners in the area of waste and energy are critical that this form of renewable energy generation has not been given adequate support in Ireland. Mindy O’Brien, coordinator of VOICE, said: “The REFIT (Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff) rate for AD plants is far below that of the UK, Italy and Germany.  It’s no wonder that so much of our food waste and other biowaste is being exported to Northern Ireland.  Organic matter is valuable feedstock to them and they are able to generate electricity from the methane created by the rotting material. Instead of being spread on land, slurry could be digested in AD plants along with food waste and other organic material to create methane-generated electricity to meet our renewable energy requirements under the EU Renewable Energy Directive.”

Commenting on the figures, Dr Tom Ryan, EPA Programme Manager, 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.”

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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.