Waste not, want not – Changes to Food Waste

The Food Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 (“the Regulations”) came into force on 14 February 2015. The purpose of the Regulations is to prevent food waste from going to landfill. The first phase of the legislation required that, from 1 April 2015, food waste voluntarily segregated from other waste at source and collected separately was banned from landfill.

Food Businesses

The second phase of the Regulations require that from 1 April 2016, any person controlling or managing a food business producing more than 50 kilograms of food waste per week must secure the separate collection of food waste. Failure to comply could result in unlimited fines. For reference, a standard wheelie bin will hold approximately 120kg of food waste.

The Regulations apply to food businesses. A food business is any business that carries out activities related to the processing, distribution, preparation or sale of food. This includes:

  • Restaurants and cafes
  • Shopping and food courts
  • Canteens
  • Hotels
  • Pubs that serve food
  • Shops that serve food
  • Supermarkets
  • Schools and colleges
  • Prisons, nursing homes and hospitals.

It is clear that the Regulations will apply to many businesses and not just the restaurant trade. Businesses will need to ensure that they receive and keep all waste transfer notes as proof of compliance.

From 1 April 2017, the duty extends to food businesses producing more than 5 kilograms of food waste per week.

No more Macerators

From 1 April 2017, a further duty is imposed on any person who produces food waste to ensure that such waste is not deposited in any lateral drain or public sewer, or drain or sewer connecting to same. Therefore, businesses that use macerators will have to find an alternative.

This duty is more extensive than the duty to secure separate collection of food waste: it extends to all employees of a food business who create food waste in the course of their duties, as opposed to the person controlling or managing a food business only.  Therefore an employee could be prosecuted.

Some Practical Issues on compliance

Essentially, caterers, kitchen managers, and facilities managers are now left with three options for disposal of food waste:

1.Pay for additional food waste bins and increase the frequency or capacity of waste collections.

2.In-vessel composting.

3.Food waste dewatering system.

Depending on the site, there may be insufficient space for additional bins. Food Businesses should check their lease to see what lands are available to them and where they are permitted to locate additional bins.

Given the nature of the material, it will be necessary to arrange for more frequent collections of such waste to avoid odours and vermin. Some premises may have sufficient space to operate their own in-vessel composting but such facilities are labour intensive and require a significant area of space. The installation of a food waste de-watering system may go some way to tackling the odour issue and significantly reduce the volume and weight of the food waste and therefore reduce collection costs but such systems can be costly and are only economical for larger facilities.

Implications for the Waste Industry

The waste industry will also be required to adapt to the changes, although some of the changes have applied since last year where businesses have voluntarily separated food waste. Waste carriers will have to ensure that separately collected food waste is not contaminated with other waste. In addition they will have to record if waste collected from businesses includes any food or other waste which has been separately collected on a waste transfer note. In practical terms this will mean either a separate food waste collection vehicle or a vehicle with a separate compartment.

A further practical issue is the limited number of waste facilities licensed to accept and process food waste. This may result in additional costs to the waste industry in transporting material possibly to the Republic of Ireland.

If you have any queries in relation to the issues raised in this briefing note, please contact Maria O’Loan at maria.oloan@tughans.com or on 028 9055 3310.

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While great care has been taken in the preparation of the content of this article, it does not purport to be a comprehensive statement of the relevant law and full professional advice should be taken before any action is taken in reliance on any item covered.