Handling and disposing of international catering waste

How to check if your waste is international catering waste (ICW) and how to store, transport and dispose of it.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

International catering waste (ICW) is food waste from international transport vehicles including:

  • cruise ships
  • airlines
  • private or commercial yachts and boats
  • armed forces ships and submarines
  • ferries

Food and drink is not considered ICW until it is no longer intended for human consumption or has been mixed with food waste. For example, a carton of milk is considered ICW only when thrown away.

ICW is a high-risk category 1 animal by-product (ABP).

ICW includes all food waste from planes, vehicles or ships travelling internationally and within EU territory. Food waste from planes, vehicles or ships is classified domestic catering waste when:

  • operating within the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man
  • travelling from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

In accordance with the Northern Ireland protocol, the EU classifies food waste from planes, vehicles or ships travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland as ICW.

Find out about the 3 different categories of ABP.

There are controls on how you handle and dispose of ICW to prevent outbreaks of notifiable diseases like foot and mouth disease.

When your waste is considered ICW

Your waste is considered ICW if your vessel or aircraft travels outside the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, even if you stocked up for the entire journey in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

How to store ICW

You must have your ICW stored in a dedicated container that is:

  • covered
  • leak-proof
  • clearly labelled ‘Category 1 - for disposal only’

You can use a compactor to reduce the waste volume, as long as you:

  • keep it in a covered area
  • control any liquid run-off
  • clean and disinfect areas contaminated with liquid run-off

Many ports and airports will have these containers on site.

How to transport ICW

You must send ICW for disposal as quickly as possible after the vessel or aircraft has docked or landed.

You must clean and disinfect any containers that held ICW after each use, with a Defra-approved disinfectant.

Find out how to transport ABPs, and how to label any ABPs you move.

How to dispose of ICW

You can only dispose of ICW by

  • processing used cooking oil into biodiesel in an approved plant
  • combusting it for use as fuel, at an approved plant, with or without prior processing
  • incinerating or co-incinerating it without prior processing and following processing (methods 1-5) and permanent marking by use of glyceryl tri-heptanoate (GTH)
  • disposal by pressure sterilisation and deep burial in an authorised landfill
  • disposal by deep burial in an authorised landfill (no pre-treatment is required)

You must not use ICW in biogas or composting plants.

You must keep records and copies of commercial documents for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to inspect.

Find out more about incinerating ABPs.

Who is responsible for disposal?

The responsibility for identifying and disposing of ICW lies with either:

  • the private owner of the vessel or aircraft
  • the company that owns the vessel or aircraft
  • the armed force that operates the vessel or aircraft

If you hire a company to move ICW off your boat or aircraft, you’re still responsible for making sure it’s identified and disposed of legally.

Waste disposal: shipmasters’ responsibilities

Before your merchant boat, ship or fishing vessel leaves a harbour or terminal, you must send waste to a waste reception facility, unless your vessel has enough waste storage capacity for the next leg of the journey.

You must tell the harbour authority if you’re not unloading waste due to having enough storage capacity.

Recycling ICW and other materials

You must separate items for recycling before they are placed in a waste bin or plastic bag.

You cannot recycle items that have been mixed with pots of honey, milk or milk products, if they were treated in a treatment plant outside the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

You can recycle other items as long as they have not been mixed with catering waste. This includes:

  • confectionery
  • crisps and nuts
  • drinks not containing milk

Declaring waste as domestic catering waste

Any food waste produced by your vessel or aircraft while travelling within the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man will be considered domestic waste if:

  • you clean and disinfect all areas on your vessel that come into contact with food (galley, store rooms)
  • any restocking is done inside the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man

Vessels must complete a written declaration to show that all these actions have been taken.

Commercial planes don’t need a declaration.

On a ship, this must be completed by the ship’s master, and handed to the port, harbour, marina, boatyard or naval yard operator for audit by APHA.

For military air bases the declaration should be kept by the base for audit by APHA.

Private plane operators should leave the declaration with the airport operator for APHA to collect, or send it to the APHA office responsible for that airport.

Catering waste from submarines and fishing vessels that do not land outside the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man or re-stocked with food outside of UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man waters are not considered International catering waste.

Published 5 September 2014
Last updated 26 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated guidance to reflect leaving the EU.

  2. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  3. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

  4. First published.