Looking ahead to the UK’s 2023 separate food waste collections
Article posted on 22.12.2020
Food waste has always been a hot topic in the waste and recycling industry, but never more so than over the last couple of years, since the UK government outlined – in its 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy – its plans to introduce separate food waste collections for all households and businesses.
And as we head into 2021, there’s no shying away from the fact that this deadline is drawing ever closer.
The state of the nation
There has been lots of noise in the industry about the new food waste measures set to be implemented in 2023 – with policy advisors and councils across the country urging the government to increase its funding to help support the model in being a success.
In fact, it was recently outlined that if all local authorities across the UK implemented kerbside food waste collections, there would be a 1.35m-tonne uplift in the amount of food waste being collected, by 2029.
It was also reported that this would decrease greenhouse gas emissions by circa 1.25 million tonnes per year.
Given the fact that UK households produce around seven million tonnes of food waste per year – five million tonnes of which is classed as edible, the plan to distinguish food waste collections from residual waste pick-ups can’t come quick enough.
This is not only because it will help to improve food waste recycling and composting rates across the country, but it will also, ultimately, divert waste from being incinerated or landfilled. As a result, this should also lead to a significant reduction in the nation’s carbon footprint – by turning the wastes into a gas, electricity or compost resource.
There are also other benefits too. Removing the domestic food wastes from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) streams, means there’s a cleaner MSW material for processing – hopefully increasing the capture of recyclables. So, there’s more to think about than what impact separate collections will have for food waste, but what this means for the rest of the domestic, black bag waste landscape too.
What about the impact on gate fees?
With the introduction of separate food waste collections though, this will mean that there’s an increase in supply and demand – with millions of tonnes of extra domestic and, if the Environment Bill returns with an expected amendment, commercial food wastes also flooding the market.
This, naturally, shines the spotlight on capacity, and whether the country has a sufficiently sized infrastructure to deal with the new model.
In past years, the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry lowered its fees to attract more food waste, but once the new collection model is in place – and AD plant capacity is utilised – it’s likely that this will upturn, and prices will once again increase.
The organics industry as a whole is under a lot of pressure to invest in equipment and processes to help clean up the contamination being processed with the organic waste – and the reality is that low gate fees aren’t conducive to investment and advancement in the sector.
And the combination of under capacity and lack of equipment investment arguably points to only one direction for the organic waste gate fees – and that’s upwards.
However, what might also happen in the short term, as a result of more under capacity, is that food waste will have to travel greater distances to sites which have spare processing resource – and this could be anywhere in the country.
The result? An unwelcome offsetting of CO2 emissions and transport costs – which means the country could be creating more carbon emissions by transporting waste than it is by processing them. And this doesn’t make sense.
It was only at the virtual LARAC 2020 conference in October that 2023 food waste collections was at the forefront of the agenda once again, and as the deadline ebbs ever-closer, this won’t be going away.
Now is the time for councils across the country to start investigating their options, planning for the new measures and developing effective food waste management strategies. This is not only in order to meet the governmental deadline, but to put the building blocks in place to help shape a more sustainable and resource-efficient future.
The Tidy Planet approach to food waste
We’re big believers in harnessing the resource potential of food wastes – and that’s why we’re advocates of composting – specifically of the on-site variety.
Our Rocket Composters are known across the world for their food waste recycling abilities – helping colleges, hotels, restaurants and city-wide collection projects to convert this stream into a valuable resource, a nutrient-rich compost.
To us, decentralised composting is the way forward, not only because it’s a more CO2-emission-friendly approach, but because it allows sites – and councils – to close the waste management loop. And that means reducing disposal and transportation costs as a result, and the generation of a resource which can either be used in growing or cultivation projects, or sold back into the community, all on a proximity basis – with wastes being collected and treated within minutes of each other, not travelling across counties.
One of our favourite composting ventures has been with one of our French distributors, Les Alchimistes. Armed with a fleet of Rocket Composters, they have established many collection projects throughout France – seeing food waste from restaurants, hotels and supermarkets collected by bicycles to be composted.
If you’d like to chat to one of the Tidy Planet team about the impending 2023 food waste collection policy, our food waste solutions, or anything in between, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or 01625 666798.