24 April 2023
It is widely acknowledged that food waste is a serious global problem. The statistics are extensively quoted – one-third of food produced is wasted globally, contributing between 8 and 10 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK alone, households, hospitality and food service businesses waste nearly eight million tonnes a year, at an estimated cost of £14 billion, with only a small fraction of this being collected for recycling.
Food waste recycling
Given this huge economic and environmental impact, it is frustrating and disappointing that the Westminster Government continues to prevaricate to deliver a consistent approach to waste collections. The latest delay has been caused by English local elections, and Whitehall concerns that an announcement could influence people’s voting intentions on a quite emotive issue.
It has now been more than five years since the Government first announced its Resources and Waste Strategy, which outlined its ambition to introduce mandatory food waste collections. Since 2018, local councils and the waste industry have been planning to successfully roll out these new services to millions of homes and businesses. Vehicle manufacturers and bin producers have also been gearing up to meet new demand. At the recent National Food Waste Conference in London, the anaerobic digestion sector was champing at the bit for more food waste tonnages to recycle into clean energy and sustainable fertilisers. Only a few weeks later, yet another further delay became clear.
With the deadline for the Government’s Green Gas Support Scheme currently set for 30th November 2025, the sector now faces a predicament on whether to push ahead with vital new infrastructure that will divert food waste from landfill and incineration to create biomethane. Unfortunately, this latest delay just creates more uncertainty and even concern that there might be a pullback on a national approach to consistent collections. The two critical ingredients to underpin new infrastructure financing are waste supply and the subsidy regime. The Government’s inability to provide clarity or certainty on either of these issues is stagnating investment in the sector. Hopefully, after the May elections are done and dusted, Whitehall will announce a clear strategic direction which the industry and local government can work towards. We are constantly reminded that the clock is ticking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, much of which is still derived from food waste. There is not much time left to waste.