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How to achieve UK-wide separate food waste collections

Yesterday I gave a presentation at EDIE Live about introducing source-segregated food waste collections throughout the UK. The event features talks on smarter and more sustainable business and brings together energy, sustainability and resource efficiency professionals. 

I spoke about where we are in the UK in terms of food waste collections, what it would look like if we were to realise the vision of UK-wide separate collections, and I then set out some of the different approaches being taken to achieve that vision.

AD has a crucial role to play in reducing food waste and ensuring that the full value of the resource is harnessed. Across the UK in 2017 AD is set to treat more than 2.2 million tonnes of food waste. This is an impressive amount but nevertheless it is less than a quarter of the 10.2 million tonnes the UK wastes each year.

ADBA is concerned that Britain’s changing relationship with the EU could have a negative impact on food waste reduction and recycling. The UK household waste recycling rate target of 50% by 2020 may be missed and UK obligations under the Circular Economy Package are now at risk: following last summer’s referendum the new municipal waste recycling target of 65% and a packaging recycling target of 75% by 2030 are now once again up for debate. Even without that political uncertainty, WRAP data suggests progress on separate food waste collections is stagnating:

WRAP will be speaking at the UK AD & Biogas and World Biogas Expo 2017 so for anyone interested in food waste this is a must attend event.

The potential of food waste and AD

ADBA wants to see all food waste not fit for redistribution being sent to AD. Each year there is more than 10 million tonnes of inedible food waste – treating all this through AD would produce over 9TWh of green gas per year, which is enough baseload energy to power around 800,000 homes and reduce fertiliser imports by 10%. This waste was recently called a “scandal” by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee, with its Chair Neil Parish MP noting the “grotesque economic, environmental and social costs” of food waste in England.

Adhering to the waste hierarchy is essential for reducing food waste, and separate food waste collections can have a central role in changing behaviour. Research by WRAP shows that 4-8% of people changed their attitudes or habits relating to food purchasing and consumption as a result of taking part in the food waste collection service. Research suggests that 40% of the 1 million tonne reduction in household food waste between 2007-10 was due to improved awareness of food waste. Providing evidence to the Efra Committee, Charlotte Morton, ADBA’s Chief Executive, called for stronger enforcement of the waste hierarchy.

Several industry-led initiatives are underway to reduce food waste and ensure inedible food waste is sent to AD. Recent government consultations have also provided opportunity for ADBA, working closely with its members, to make the case for mandating separate food waste collections.

  • The Consistency Framework for Greater Consistency in Household Recycling in England outlines opportunities for greater consistency in households, both in terms of reducing waste, reducing GHG emissions and savings local authorities and households money. Dr Richard Swannell, Development Director, WRAP will be speaking at UK AD & Biogas and World Biogas Expo 2017 on the topic of The global food waste scandal: AD’s role in reducing and recycling food waste, Conference Day 1, July 5th 12.00 
  • The Food Waste Recycling Action Plan (FWRAP) is a cross-industry initiative to increase both the supply and quality of household and commercial food waste available for recycling. With just 600,000 tonnes of the household food waste total of 7.3 million tonnes being collected there is ample room for improvement.
  • In the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) call for evidence on the bioeconomy we cited examples where recycling and food waste collection policies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had embraced the wealth of this resource, its energy potential and the baseload and home grown energy security it provides. England, we said, now needs to follow suit so the UK as a whole can share this good practice with the world. Biogas from the world’s food waste could power the whole of Brazil, reducing global GHG emissions by 18-20%.
  • We developed this argument for BEIS’ modern industrial strategy consultation, providing evidence that through investment in AD and food waste collections, the bioeconomy would contribute £4.9 bn net to the UK economy per year.

Be sure to attend UK AD & Biogas and World Biogas Expo 2017, the only place to go for the latest news on these important initiatives and consultations.

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