Food waste recycling in Scotland up 40 per cent

Food waste recycling in Scotland increased by 40 per cent between 2013 and 2017, saving thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions, according to new reports published by Zero Waste Scotland.

The new reports surveyed the state of the Scottish anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting sectors in 2017, and found that 158,500 tonnes of commercial and household food waste were processed in AD and composting facilities in 2017, compared to 111,500 tonnes in 2013.

These figures have been boosted by the introduction of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012, which, from the start of 2016, obligated businesses producing more than five kilogrammes of food waste per week to present that waste separately for collection. In addition, household food waste collections have increased across Scottish local authorities, with 80 per cent of Scottish households now having access to food waste collections.

Food waste is a significant contributor to carbon emissions, and therefore global warming, due to the energy and resources that go into growing and transporting food, giving it a greater carbon footprint than plastic waste. This climate impact is aggravated when food waste is sent to landfill, where it produces methane, one of the most damaging greenhouse gases.

Food waste recycling in Scotland up 40 per centBy diverting food waste to AD and composting facilities, the worst environmental impacts of food waste are reduced, with the 40 per cent increase in food waste recycling preventing 41,500 tonnes of carbon emissions from being released. This is largely thanks to the AD process, which uses food waste to produce biogas to generate electricity, heat and gas, reducing the reliance on fossil fuel-based modes of energy generation.

In 2017, the Scottish AD sector produced an estimated 245,520 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, with around one third of inputs contributing to this coming from food waste. Such levels of production will be welcomed by the Scottish Government, which recently committed to making Scotland to net-zero carbon emissions by 2045.

Cutting down on food waste will play a large part in Scotland’s goal to reduce carbon emissions. In 2016, the Scottish Government announced a commitment to reduce food waste in Scotland by a third by 2025, launching a Food Waste Reduction Action Plan in April of this year outlining how it aims to meet its reduction target.

This includes a commitment to consult, by the end of 2019, on a mandatory national food waste reduction target and mandatory reporting of Scotland’s food surplus and waste by food businesses, as well as a ban on sending biodegradable waste to landfill set to enter into force in 2021.

‘Living through a climate emergency’

Commenting on the figures, Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Scotland should be proud, the recycling of more food waste into sustainable energy is an incredible achievement. The rise in recycled food waste is welcome news for Scotland’s economy and for the planet. When we waste food, we also waste the resources that went into growing, processing, transporting and packaging it, so it is hugely important that we use what we have. Of course, some food waste is inevitable – we can’t escape waste of items like fruit and vegetable peel.

“This result is fantastic, but think of all the energy that can be produced from the rest of our unavoidable food waste. We are living through a climate emergency and individuals can have a great impact without even leaving the kitchen by simply using their food waste caddy.”

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham added: “I am pleased to see a growing number of people across the country taking action to reduce food waste. Scotland’s response to the global climate emergency must be a shared, national endeavour – we all need to do our bit to safeguard the planet for future generations – and reducing and recycling food waste is an easy but important way to do just this.

“Our Food Waste Reduction Action Plan, launched in April, provides more information on the clear environmental and economic benefits of reducing food waste. I’d urge everyone who hasn’t already done so to consider a small change in their daily routine to make a big difference to the battle against climate change. We all need to work together to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change and seize the opportunities that creates.”

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