Report shows link between food waste collections and food waste arisings

The provision of separate food waste collections by local authorities leads to lower total food waste arisings, according to a report published on Friday (24 January) by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

An image of food waste being collected

The report, ‘The impact of food waste collections on household food waste arisings’, compared food waste arisings among local authorities with and without a separate food waste collection service, covering a five-year period (2012/2013 to 2016/2017) and including data from 107 local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales.

Highlighting that there is potential to reduce food waste through the introduction of food waste collections, the report found that local authorities with separate food waste collections produced an average of 16.1 kilogrammes per household per year less waste than those without.

Factors such as nation, frequency of residual waste collection, rurality, social deprivation and time were considered when reaching this conclusion.

WRAP’s report showed a clear difference in the prevalence of food waste collection schemes across the three nations – 100 of Welsh local authorities offer the service, compared to 50 per cent in Scotland and 38 per cent in England, although separate food waste collections are set to be introduced across England by 2023, as part of the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy.

The report also highlighted a notable difference in the rurality of food waste collection schemes – out of all the local authorities that offered separate food waste collection, only 10 per cent were categorised as ‘predominantly urban’, compared to 44.8 ‘predominantly rural’. Local authorities that provided separate food waste collections also tended to have less deprived households.

Separate food waste collection was also associated with less frequent residual waste collection, with 88.1 per cent of councils that offer separate food waste collection providing less than weekly residual waste collection.

With previous research from WRAP revealing that local authorities with separate food waste collections have higher overall recycling rates, the organisation has suggested that the introduction of food waste collections may have an added cascade effect on other recycling waste streams.

The report calls for future research to build on the current data and secure a more definitive conclusion, for instance by considering the impact of mixed food and garden schemes and exploring local authority communications.

Food waste reduction

This comes as WRAP’s second report of the day, with the organisation also publishing new figures revealing that total food waste has fallen by seven per cent per person in three years.

The latest progress report from WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment 2025 – a voluntary initiative challenging businesses to reduce waste by 20 per cent over ten years – has shown that total food waste now measures 9.5 million tonnes per year, down from 10 million tonnes in 2015 and 1.7 million tonnes lower than in 2007.

Aiming to continue this trend and reduce food waste even further, WRAP is set to launch a national conversation in 2020 in a bid to change public habits and build concern around the issue of food waste.

You can read the full report, ‘The impact of food waste collections on household food waste arisings’, on WRAP’s website.

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