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You are here: Home / Media / News / EEA highlights key measures for reducing landfilling of biodegradable waste

EEA highlights key measures for reducing landfilling of biodegradable waste

National strategies to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill should comprise an integrated package of measures, including separate collection, taxes and centralised composting, and ensure that markets exist for compost and other end products.
NEWS RELEASE

Copenhagen, 22 March 2002

For immediate release


EEA highlights key measures for reducing landfilling of biodegradable waste

National strategies to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill should comprise an integrated package of measures, including separate collection, taxes and centralised composting, and ensure that markets exist for compost and other end products.

This is one of the key conclusions from a new European Environment Agency report intended to help countries comply with the European Union's Landfill Directive, which will progressively limit the amount of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) that can be disposed of in landfills.

The report, Biodegradable municipal waste management in Europe, draws together information on the production and management of BMW across western Europe and on the various strategies and instruments that are used to encourage its diversion away from landfills.

BMW comprises food waste, garden waste, paper and cardboard, textiles, wood and other miscellaneous biodegradable wastes, such as wooden furniture, from households and other municipal waste sources.

"The experience of countries and regions that have succeeded in diverting large quantities of BMW away from landfill strongly suggests that an integrated package of options is needed at national level to achieve high diversion rates," the report finds.

Specifically, countries with high rates of diversion of BMW from landfill employ a combination of separate collection (the collection of BMW separately from other waste streams), thermal treatment (mainly in the form of incineration), centralised composting and material recycling.

The key to achieving both high diversion rates from landfill and high re-use, recycling and composting rates appears to be the provision of widespread separate collection facilities, together with the availability of adequate markets for the materials collected, the report says.

It recommends that separation of BMW from other waste at source should be considered for inclusion in national strategies. Taxes and restrictions on the landfilling and incineration of specific waste streams are also components of successful strategies, it notes.

Some countries have adopted or are considering outright bans on the landfilling of the entire biodegradable fraction of the municipal waste stream while others have introduced taxes that increase the cost of landfilling in order to make recovery options more economically viable. The optimum approach, according to the report, may be a combination of progressive restrictions on landfilling together with a taxation system that increases the cost of landfilling to the point where it is no longer financially attractive.

The report underlines that establishing and maintaining adequate markets and outlets for compost and other end products is vital if national strategies are to be successful. Countries and regions investing heavily in separate collection risk creating a new waste management problem if reliable outlets are not available, it warns.

The number of proven options available for treating BMW diverted from landfill is currently relatively small. The three main options are incineration with energy recovery (mainly of the biodegradable fraction of mixed waste), central composting (mainly of garden wastes and, to a lesser extent, food wastes) and material recycling (mainly of paper and cardboard wastes). More recent or emerging technologies such as gasification and thermolysis may also play a role in national strategies.

The report highlights the need for each country to set up a monitoring and management system to allow it to track BMW production and management on a continuous basis. It points to considerable gaps in the information on BMW available at national level and underlines the importance of continuing efforts to establish harmonised systems of data collection and reporting "so that reliable waste flow information becomes the norm and not the exception."

The report is in three parts, the first two focussed on strategies and instruments for diverting BMW from landfill and the third on technology and market issues. All three are available on the EEA website at http://reports.eea.europa.eu/topic_report_2001_15/en.

Notes for Editors


  • The decomposition of biodegradable waste in landfills produces greenhouse gases and potentially toxic liquids which under certain circumstances can escape and pollute the surrounding environment.
  • The report was prepared by the EEA's former European Topic Centre on Waste (ETC/W), the forerunner of today's Topic Centre on Resource and Waste Management (ETC/WMF). Topic centres are centres of expertise comprising international consortia of specialist organisations which are contracted to assist the EEA in carrying out its work programme.
  • Council Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste requires EU Member States to reduce in stages the quantities of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill, according to the following timetable:
    • By 16 July 2006, the weight of such waste going to landfill must be reduced to 75% of the total of such waste produced in 1995 or in the latest year before 1995 for which standardised data are available from Eurostat, the European Commission's statistics office;
    • By 16 July 2009, a reduction to 50% of the total produced in 1995 or the latest year prior to 1995 must be achieved;
    • By 16 July 2016, a reduction to 35% of the total produced in 1995 or the latest year prior to 1995 must be achieved.
  • Member States which sent to landfill more than 80% by weight of their collected municipal waste in 1995, or in the latest year before 1995 for which standardized Eurostat data are available, may delay meeting each of the above targets by up to four years.

    In order to meet these targets, Member States are obliged to set up national strategies for reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill.

  • The Landfill Directive does not provide a definition of BMW. In the report BMW is taken to comprise the biodegradable fraction of the mixed waste that is collected door to door on a regular basis, plus biodegradable municipal waste that is collected separately from other waste streams, plus the biodegradable fraction of bulky municipal waste. In practice this covers food, garden waste, paper and cardboard, textiles, wood and other miscellaneous biodegradable wastes, plus bulky materials such as wooden furniture.
  • Gasification is the production of gaseous fuels (methane and hydrogen) through high temperature incineration of waste. Thermolysis is a process of high-temperature chemical breakdown of waste that melts and solidifies the resulting ash.

About the EEA

The European Environment Agency is the main source of information used by the European Union and its Member States in developing environment policies. The Agency aims to support sustainable development and to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europe's environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy-making agents and the public. Established by the EU in 1990 and operational in Copenhagen since 1994, the EEA is the hub of the European environment information and observation network (EIONET), a network of some 600 bodies across Europe through which it both collects and disseminates environment-related data and information.

The Agency, which is open to all nations that share its objectives, currently has 29 member countries. These are the 15 EU Member States; Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Economic Area; and 11 of the 13 countries in central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area that are seeking accession to the EU - Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic. Their membership makes the EEA the first EU body to take in the candidate countries. It is anticipated that the two remaining candidate countries, Poland and Turkey, will ratify their membership agreements within the next few months. This will take the Agency's membership to 31 countries. Negotiations with Switzerland on membership are also under way.


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