Bio-waste is defined as biodegradable garden and park waste, food and kitchen waste from households, restaurants, caterers and retail premises, and comparable waste from food processing plants. It does not include forestry or agricultural residues, manure, sewage sludge, or other biodegradable waste such as natural textiles, paper or processed wood. It also excludes those by-products of food production that never become waste.
Currently the main environmental threat from biowaste (and other biodegradable waste) is the production of methane from such waste decomposing in landfills, which accounted for some 3% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU-15 in 1995. The Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) obliges Member States to reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that they landfill to 35% of 1995 levels by 2016 (for some countries by 2020) which will significantly reduce this problem.
The Landfill Directive does not prescribe specific treatment options for the diverted waste. The most significant benefits of proper bio-waste management - besides avoided emissions of greenhouse gases - would be the production of good quality compost and bio-gas that contribute to enhanced soil quality and resource efficiency, as well as a higher level of energy self-sufficiency. In practice, however, Member States are often inclined not to opt for composting or bio-gas production, and instead choose the seemingly easiest and cheapest option such as incineration or landfilling and disregarding the actual environmental benefits and costs.
Unquestionably, landfilling is the worst waste management option for bio-waste. However, for the management of biodegradable waste diverted from landfills, there seems to be several environmentally favourable options. While the waste management hierarchy also applies to the management of bio-waste, in specific cases it may be justified to depart from it as the environmental balance of the various...
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