REA policy on liners and re-purposed bags suitable for separate collection of targeted food waste streams from households, businesses and non-domestic premises in England

The REA, with contributions from some of our members and key stakeholder contacts, has published its full policy document on liners and re-purposed bags suitable for collecting targeted food waste streams in England, from 2023/24 onwards when roll out of food waste collection services for households and organisations (potentially above a deminimis, specified organisation size) begins to become mandatory.

This policy is also supported by A Plastic Planet, the Bio-Based and Biodegradable Industries Association, Carbon Clarity, Co-op, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, Cromwell Polythene, the Foodservice Packaging Association, Keenan Recycling, Nature 2030, the National Farmers’ Union, the NNFCC (The Bioeconomy Consultants), Paper Round, Plastics Europe, Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd and Westaways Sausages.

Policy Summary

Government, regulators and industry are seeking ways to reduce the amount of visible plastics and microplastics that reach soils via waste-derived composts and digestates.  In addition, the biowaste recycling and recovery sector is committed to producing digestates and composts of the highest possible quality and to manage food wastes as efficiently as possible.  To help achieve these aims the REA and contributors have developed a policy on liners and re-purposed bags suitable for separately collecting non-packaged and user-unpackaged food wastes from households, businesses and non-domestic premises, in England from 2023/2024 onwards. It also applies to any co-collection of such food wastes with plant (e.g. garden) wastes in England from 2023/2024 onwards.

Key Policy Criterion (please refer to full policy document for all policy criteria):

Non-packaged and user-unpackaged food that is discarded and separately collected – including where co-collected with plant waste – must be presented:

a) in plastic or paper liners or re-purposed bags (inside the caddy/bin) independently certified compliant with BS EN 13432 or BS EN 14995*;

b) in a user-made caddy/bin lining made of a re-purposed, paper, non-bag / non-liner item, e.g. newspaper; or

c) loose inside the bin (also referred to as naked).

* Standards

BS EN 13432:2000, ‘Packaging. Requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation. Test scheme and evaluation criteria for the final acceptance of packaging.’

BS EN 14995:2006, ‘Plastics. Evaluation of compostability. Test scheme and specifications.’

Both standards include disintegration and biodegradation tests and pass/fail criteria relevant to industrial scale composting conditions, plus tests and pass/fail criteria relevant to ecotoxicity, heavy metals concentrations and compost quality.  (As an option, these standards include pass/fail criteria for an item’s anaerobic biodegradation – based on biogas production – and its disintegration under a combination of anaerobic digestion then aerobic stabilisation test conditions. Item testing and assessment for its conformance to these AD-relevant criteria has tended not to be pursued to date.)


Our policy facilitates higher quality and higher yields of composts and digestates produced from organic recycling and recovery of separately collected biodegradable wastes, and reduced risk of pollution when the composts and digestates are spread on land. Compostable liners have been shown to lead to reduced levels of contamination by non-compostable plastics. This can help to avoid the financial costs of removing and sending front-end removed liners/re-purposed bags to waste recovery (e.g. energy from waste) or landfill facilities and the associated negative impacts on the environment. It will also enable policy-compliant liners/re-purposed bags to be fed into anaerobic digesters after suitable pre-treatment or to be front-end removed at the AD facility then sent an in-vessel composting facility to be composted.

Getting it right

We believe the following actions are important in support of our policy:
* Further discussion with policy makers and stakeholders
* Updating End of Waste rules (Quality Protocols)
* Marking of policy-compliant bags and liners as uniformly as possible
* Funding for local authority and other public sector education and behaviour change resources
* Reduction of contamination to sufficiently low levels
* Using this policy’s criteria in public and private sector tender invitations for new and revised contracts for collection of the in-scope waste streams

We plan to seek the devolved administrations’ support for our policy in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

– – –

We submitted version 1.0 of the full policy document to Defra on 4th July as part of our response to their consultation on Consistency in household and business recycling in England.  We have also sent to them and the environment protection regulators the latest version (1.1) of our full policy document. It includes all supporting organisations’ logos and checked descriptions, a modified footnote 1 on p 2 and action 10 on p 7, and improvements to make the text clearer in a few places.

Click HERE for the full policy document.

We invite further organisations who decide to support the policy, or want to discuss it, to contact us.

Industry feedback on caddy liner types

In October 2021, Defra asked the REA to research and feedback AD and in-vessel composting (IVC) facility operator feedback regarding feasibility, practicalities and experiences with managing different types of caddy liners/bags that have been used for collecting food waste. Many thanks to all those who took the time to respond. You can read a summary of the feedback here.

REA point of contact: Emily Nichols ([email protected])