Organic Material and Biowaste

Organic material and the resulting waste are a key material for achieveing a circular economy. It is both a large source of waste and a source of circular opportunity. According to the European Compost Network (ECN), promoting circular alternatives for the processing of biowaste will have more than just environmental benefits:

  • Europe annually digests or composts around 30 million tonnes of separately collected biowaste
  • Europe has the capacity to increase this number to 90 million tonnes
  • This could lead to the creation of 50,000 jobs, including in areas of high unemployment. 

EU Policy

The EU is taking measures to improve material recovery from biowaste and close the material loop. Under current European law, Member States have to ensure that by 2035, the amount of municipal waste (biowaste makes up a large proportion of municipal waste) landfilled “is reduced to 10% or less of the total amount of municipal waste generated.”

By 2030, Member States should “ensure that all waste suitable for recycling or other recovery will not be accepted in a landfill.” Reducing the amount of biowaste that goes to landfill is crucial in achieving these targets.




Biowaste business

Improving material recovery from biowaste can speed up the transition to a circular economy. It helps to create diverse circular business opportunities. Biowaste can be divided into many different types of organic waste, it can be recycled in various ways in biomass power plants, composting plants or fermentation plants. The latter, for example, recycle biowaste into biogas that is currently mostly used to produce electricity but, potentially, it could also be used for heating.

Aside from these examples, throughout Europe businesses have found creative ways to monetise biowaste and upcycle it into products such as bioplastics, biopesticides and food. At the same time, more potential business models are being developed. Grassification, for instance, aims to create a viable market for the transformation of grass clippings from public spaces into industrial products.   



The EU annually produces 130Mt of biowaste



66% of EU's biowaste is food waste originating from food manufacturing and packaging processes, household scraps, and restaurants/grocery stores



43% of the biowaste in the EU is recycled; only 25% is recycled into high quality compost and digestate