Regulations set out new rules for the disposal of food waste by businesses.

16 February 2017

David Wilson, Partner, considers the implications of the Food Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015 in relation to the collection, transport and treatment of food waste

Regulations set out new rules for the disposal of food waste by businesses.

Worthingtons Solicitors recently acted in the takeover of a well-known restaurant chain.  As part of the due diligence process we discovered all there is to know about food waste and the FOOD WASTE REGULATIONS (Northern Ireland) 2015 that came into operation on 14th February 2015. These Regulations provide for the collection, transport and treatment of food waste, and for related matters and the different obligations under the Regulations come into force on different dates between 2015 and 2017.

The effect of the Regulations is to amend the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 (S.I. 1997/2778 (N.I. 19)) to provide for the separate collection of food waste. From 1st April 2016 the Regulations place a duty on food businesses producing in excess of 50kg of food waste per week to present food waste for separate collection and from 1st April 2017 place a duty on businesses to ensure food waste is not deposited in a lateral drain or sewer. It should be noted that from 1st April 2017, food businesses that produce 5kg to 50kg of food waste per week to present that food waste for separate collection.

Is your business affected and what is a “food business”?

A business by definition in the Regulations includes “a canteen, club, school, hospital or institution, whether carried on for profit or not, and any undertaking or activity carried on by a district council”.

A “food business” means “an undertaking, whether for profit or not, and whether public or private, carrying out any activity related to the processing, distribution, preparation or sale of food.”.

Therefore, the Regulations extend to restaurants, foodcourts, cafés, canteens, supermarkets, schools and colleges that provide meals and even prisons, nursing homes, and hospitals.  Essentially all undertakings that provide a “food business” need to pay attention to the regulations.  The fact that not for profit privately organisations are affected by the legislation may come as a surprise to some.

The Regulations amend the Pollution, Prevention and Control (Industrial Emissions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2013 (S.R.2013 No.160) and the Waste Management Licensing Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (S.R.2003 No.493) to ensure that separately collected food waste is not mixed with other waste to the extent that would hamper future recycling.  No doubt businesses will be faced with extra costs in arranging for the separate transportation of food waste and indeed from 1st April 2015 those who collect and dispose of food waste need to ensure food waste is transported separately from other waste material. 

When one considers that a number of Sainsbury's supermarkets across the United Kingdom are now powered by green gas produced entirely from food waste, one wonders whether the government is trying to adopt a joined up approach to waste and whether our food waste will ever generate green gas in significant volumes locally to generate renewable heat and power, while minimising greenhouse gas emissions.  The introduction of the FOOD WASTE REGULATIONS (Northern Ireland) 2015 may be a step in the right direction despite the additional legal obligations for local businesses.

David Wilson is a commercial partner at Worthingtons Solicitors and frequently advises companies in in the hospitality and food service sector in Northern Ireland.

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