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Government minister calls for separate food waste collections

A government minister has stated that the upcoming Resources and Waste Strategy will “require separate food waste collections” in order to reduce carbon emissions and act as a feedstock for anaerobic digestion (AD).

Speaking at the ADBA (Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association) National Conference 2018 on Tuesday morning (11 December), Investment Minister Graham Stuart MP said: “We want food waste to be collected separately for use in AD plants – to make the green biogas that can fertilise our crops and heat our homes: an environmentally sustainable option for waste management that cuts down on landfill.

“[The Resources & Waste Strategy will] tackle long-standing issues like waste crime, collection systems, packaging and plastic pollution – including requiring separate food waste collections.”

Government minister calls for separate food waste collections
Graham Stuart MP speaking at the ADBA National Conference 2018.

Currently, only around a third of households in England have separate food waste collections, while the service is universal for householders in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (whether that is food waste alone or mixed with garden waste).

Calls have been growing to include separate food waste collections in the upcoming Resources and Waste Strategy – due to be released “before the end of the year” according to a Defra spokesperson – with more than 40 businesses, local authorities and trade bodies coming together to form the ‘Food Waste Coalition’, calling on the government to introduce universal food waste collections across the UK.

Earlier in the year, the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) made the same call in the National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA), recommending that separate food waste collections should be introduced by 2025. Environment Secretary Michael Gove also stated in October that he would “like to see” a national separate food waste collection scheme.

At the ADBA conference, Stuart went on to describe AD, which recycles inedible food waste into renewable energy and natural fertiliser, as “the best option to treat food wastes both from commercial and domestic sources”.

He also spoke about the potential for the UK AD industry to export waste management services and technologies worldwide and highlighted the role of AD in decarbonising the UK’s heat system and heavy transport, in restoring soils and in reducing methane emissions.

Stuart’s comments on the benefits of universal food waste collections were echoed at the conference by the Chief Economist of the NIC, James Richardson, who said that the NIC has a “very clear position” on AD and that the technology can save local authorities money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food waste, reduce contamination of other recyclable materials, and provide a more environmentally friendly alternative to the use of natural gas in the gas grid.

He also quoted the NIC’s findings that 79 per cent of people that do not currently use a food waste bin would be prepared to use one if it were provided by their local council and suggested that there is a frustration among local authorities and the public that there is currently no national standard for food waste collections.

Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of ADBA, said in response to Graham Stuart’s announcement: “This is the strongest suggestion yet that the government’s long-awaited Resources and Waste Strategy will include a commitment to universal food waste collections in England, and we’re delighted that this has been announced today at our conference to the very AD plant operators who will be responsible for recycling this inedible food waste into renewable energy and natural fertiliser.

“It’s an absolute no-brainer that inedible food waste should be separately collected so it doesn’t end up wasted in incinerators or landfill and so that the energy and nutrition locked up in it can be reused, reducing the UK’s need for fossil-fuel-based energy and fertiliser.

“A commitment by ministers to universal food waste collections will finally allow England to catch up with the rest of the UK in recycling its inedible food waste whilst importantly also reducing the amount of food wasted in the first place.

“It is of the utmost importance, however, that this policy commitment is backed up by meaningful funding to support local authorities that haven’t already done so to introduce separate collections, and that there are measures to support local authorities in achieving sufficiently high capture rates. We look forward to seeing the full details of the government’s plans in the strategy as soon as possible.”

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