The European biowaste treatment industry is calling for European policy makers, waste management companies and local authorities to ensure food waste is free from plastic contamination to avoid a bill of €2.5 billion a year for the biowaste industry to decontaminate the feedstock and prevent plastic fragments going into soils.
Ahead of an international webinar organised by the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, and hosted by MEP Frank Bogovič, – “Food Waste Collection and the unintended consequences of plastic contamination” – on 22 September, David Newman, Managing Director of BBIA, has highlighted the challenges faced by the biowaste sector following the mandate for all EU nations to source and segregate biowaste for treatment through composting and anaerobic digestion (AD), where it is turned into biogas and biofertilisers.
“An estimated 50 million tonnes/year extra of biowaste will be collected for treatment after 2024 across the EU”, he said. “Such large volumes of biowaste present both opportunities and challenges. Crucially, among the challenges, is the need to ensure the biowaste is suitable for treatment and free from plastic contamination. An increasing body of data shows that, unless measures are taken, food waste collections will be contaminated with plastics, which will then leak to soil even after treatment. We need high quality collection systems to avoid this contamination, as well as instruments for the promotion of organic soil improvers over mineral fertilisers”.
Food waste treatment plants in Italy, where food waste collections account for two thirds of all food waste collected in the EU, currently spend €90-120 million annually to extract plastics from the feedstock according to their association, CIC. Yet Italy has very pure collections and low plastics contamination levels (1.5 per cenrt). Other countries have yet to implement full-scale collections systems and many allow plastic bags in them. As plastics cannot be composted or used for biogas, they need to be extracted. The cost for EU nations to extract unwanted plastics from food waste is therefore enormous and potentially runs into the billions of Euros which would be disastrous for the composting and AD industries. It will also mean higher costs for EU citizens and greater environmental damage to soils too.
The webinar will bring EU policymakers, key stakeholders and practitioners to share their expertise and discuss how to ensure the purity of food waste before treatment, as well as best practice and potential roadblocks in the biowaste industry. It will send a clear message to those upstream of the process – EU policy makers, local authorities, waste management companies, regulators, environment agencies, the media – that they must help ensure food waste is clean before it gets to the treatment plants.
The “Food Waste Collection and the unintended consequences of plastic contamination” webinar will take place on Tuesday 22 September from 13.00-14.30 CEST. It will be hosted by MEP Franc Bogovič, Co-chair of the Bioeconomy Working Group of the European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development, and moderated by David Newman, Managing Director, BBIA.
Speakers will be:
- Marco Ricci-Jürgensen, Chair, Working Group on Biowaste, International Solid Waste Association, & Senior Expert Italian Composting and Biogas Association, European Composting Network
- Mattia Pellegrini, Head of Unit “Waste Management & Secondary Materials”, DG Environment, European Commission
- Harmen Dekker, Managing Director, European Biogas Association
- Liliana Nichita, Director, Federation of Intercommunity Development Associations, Romania
It is free to attend. Join here at time of event