Report highlights scale of household food waste

A report by food waste disposal and hot water tap manufacturer InSinkErator has highlighted that 40 per cent of England’s household waste was sent for reuse, recycling or composting in 2020/21, with over half of the country’s local authorities seeing a drop in their rates.

food wasteThe report underscores inconsistencies in food waste collection, noting that separate food waste collections are only available in around a third (133 out of 309) of England’s district councils and unitary authorities. With households being the ‘biggest contributors to food waste in the UK’, waste collection is a local issue, says InSinkErator.

The report notes that, in England, recycling and waste is managed by local councils, with the UK Government’s primarily leading on targets for waste to be recycled. In last year’s Autumn Budget, the Government announced that it would direct over £300 million into rolling out separate food waste collections across every local authority in England by 2025, a measure proposed in the Environment Bill 2020.

InSinkErator’s research aims to identify the areas in England with ‘the least wasteful mindsets’, calculating ‘recycling-conscious’ scores for each local authority based on efforts to reduce waste output and increase how much of this waste gets recycled or composted.

With 33 per cent of household waste sent for recycling, reduction, or composting, London was named the least recycling-conscious area in England. However, the report also found that London is home to five of the top ten ‘most improved’ local authorities.

Areas elsewhere in England are becoming less reliant on landfill, the report states. The highest ranked authority is Stroud – which showed an 89 per cent improvement in waste management over the last five years.

The second highest was Lewes, with an 85 per cent improvement in recycling and composting over five years. In third place is the Isles of Scilly, where the rate has increased by 72 per cent.

Kevin Carr, UK Sales Director at InSinkErator, said: “While some areas have made incredible progress on recycling in the last few years, England as whole has gone backwards, which is worrying. Just in the UK, our food waste contributes more than 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas to the environment each year.

“As separate food waste collections come into play, households – and councils – have to do more. They need to become more recycling-conscious, building it into everyday routines and processes.

“Part of that is becoming aware of how useful food waste can be. Very few people realise that we can produce electricity from food waste, which is obviously even more of a benefit when fuel costs are so high. Just dumping food into the bin, however, means we’re doing harm, as well as missing out on energy creation. It really is a habit we need to break.”

Susie Burrage, Ambassador & Board member of the Global Recycling Foundation, added: “The biggest impact of household waste not being recycled or composted effectively is increased volumes being sent to landfill. This is resulting in the loss of valuable resources from the urban mine.

“In first world countries, like the UK, it is estimated 40 per cent of food is wasted. Unlike other streams, food waste recycling is the hardest service in which to get individuals to participate, mainly because it can be smelly, gooey and unpleasant to look at and handle.

“Increasing household engagement may not lead to increasing tonnages, as in other streams, as people often feel guilty when putting out full food waste caddies and this can lead to a reduction in the amount of food they waste in the future. Therefore, changing mindsets to recycle food waste will encourage people to be more conscious of what they are wasting, subsequently waste less and ultimately be less impactful on our planet.”