Will it be Feast or Famine

It is widely accepted that there is overcapacity in the UK's anaerobic digestion (AD) waste infrastructure. Although food waste supply and demand vary enormously depending on region, the declining gate fees over the last three years is a hallmark of this over capacity.

Will it be Feast or Famine

Christmas has traditionally been a period where food waste is abundant. As a result, many AD operators report food waste volumes climbing by over 30% following Christmas, and these volumes remain high until early February. However, this abundance can be a double-edged sword for operators; whilst feedstock supply concerns diminish, processing this volume of waste can be challenging.

In the UK's infancy of AD, it was not uncommon to see operators struggle to maintain biology due to overfeeding during the Christmas food waste glut. Too much waste and insufficient plants were a significant problem, especially for operators locked into long-term contracts with Local Authorities. Today, with more plants on the ground and collaborative working between operators, waste is traded efficiently between plants to avoid overpressure on any one plant.

All this waste will horrify many as it is symptomatic of a greedy and wasteful society. What will happen this Christmas when the cost of living crisis starts to bite? Supermarkets already report that shoppers are spending less, and some local authorities report declining waste collection volumes. The expectation has to be that waste volumes will decrease. The question is, will waste volumes then remain at lower levels as the public becomes more conscious of waste and grows up as a society? One would hope that waste continues to reduce, but as a nation, we have still not addressed poor food waste capture rates.

Many major cities and urban conurbations are fighting to evade their responsibilities to collect waste on the grounds of cost and capturing food waste from pubs, restaurants and other food outlets is disappointingly low.

Be it feast or famine this Christmas; the industry needs the security of waste supply to drive expansion. However, this security can only be achieved with a government committed to the green economy and mandating waste collection to increase capture rates.

Share this page