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Biowaste Management Challenges

Biowaste Management Challenges






  • Lack of organic carbon in soils
  • Soil erosion and desertification
  • Low fertility, loss of agricultural land
  • Chemical fertilisers/pesticides use
  • Landfill impacts: biogas, lixiviates, space occupation, etc.
  • Methane impacts on climate change
  • Loss of recyclable materials by mixed collection



  • Acting at the first stages of the management chain
  • Closing the cycle of biowaste
  • Introducing appropriate drivers and specific targets
  • Promoting high quality biowaste separated at source
  • Implementing efficient and adapted collection schemes
  • Deploying biowaste recycling capacity and economically and technically sustainable facilities
  • Ensuring quality compost to be applied to soils
  • Developing awareness, training and know-how transfer activities
  • Fostering monitoring and benchmarking


One of the main challenges in countries of the Mediterranean Basin is sustainable waste management, in particular the management of biowaste. As biowaste represents the largest fraction of MSW(Municipal Solid Waste), it is therefore of particular importance. In the countries of the Mediterranean Basin, food waste represents the predominant fraction of biowaste, reaching up to 30%-50% of total MSW production.

Strategies aiming to prevent and divert biowaste (and food waste, in particular) from disposal can have significant outcomes, in particular addressing urgent environmental threats within this area:

  • Effective and economically sustainable collection schemes for biowaste represent the first step to produce quality compost, that can be used to mitigate soil erosion, desertification and enhance organic content in agricultural land improving its production as well as the fixation of carbon in soils.
  • Diversion of biowaste for recycling has a direct effect in reducing the environmental impacts of waste disposal due to landfilling of MSW; it limits the emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) and leachates that may pollute ground water. It also reduces the use of landfill space.

Additionally, the introduction of separate collection schemes and models promote the development of a strong waste management sector with the creation of green jobs, even propitiating the effective regulation and involvement of the current informal recycling sector.

In summary, the prevention of biowaste is the first objective of any management plan. This should be followed by correct management of this fraction ( in terms of quality and quantity of the collected flow and selection of sustainable management models), which result in improved environmental problems in the Mediterranean Basin. This includes reducing desertification and improving the productivity of agricultural soils (applying quality compost to soils), reducing global warming (avoiding the disposal of biodegradable materials to landfills and enhancing the soils’ role as a carbon sink) and reducing reliance on landfill. Generally speaking, the aim of biowaste recycling can be considered to be the backbone of a modern and sustainable management solution for MSW.

A common and co-ordinated strategy within the Mediterranean Basin is therefore welcome. It can lead to faster adoption of measures and MSW management practises that aim to achieve the above mentioned environmental and socio-economic benefits, as well as contributing to support the North and specially Southern countries of the Mediterranean area in finding sustainable waste management solutions. This includes improved management of waste according to specific waste arisings, cultural and cooking habits and potential needs for assuring long term sustainability of agricultural land. This is set against a backdrop of increasing population and worsening effects due to climate change.

Estimation du contenu de carbone organique dans les couches superficielles du sol dans le sud de l'Europe . ( Source : Bureau européen des sols (2002 ) Carte selon Jones , le concept de R . )
Estimation du contenu de carbone organique dans les couches superficielles du sol dans le sud de l'Europe . ( Source : Bureau européen des sols (2002 ) Carte selon Jones , le concept de R . )
Soil Protection Production/energy savings Sustainable use of resources Fight against Climate change
Compost use
Replacing the use of mineral fertilizers (N, P, K) and other amendments (CO2 avoided, energy-saving and GHG)
Recovery and contribution of organic matter and nutrients contained in the amendment
“Sequestration” of carbon in soils
Increasing biodiversity
Resilience (recovery capacity) of soils
Reducing erosion
Supporting biological activityprevention of “desertification”
Slow release of nitrogen sources
Improved working the land
Increased soil water retention
Substitution of pesticides
Replacing peat
Production and use of biogas (obtained in the anaerobic digestion processes)
Substitution of fossil fuels

Benefits of the separate biowaste management and quality compost application