AD lobby calls for landfill ban on food waste

A ban on food waste to landfill must be put into effect if anaerobic digestion (AD) is to reach its potential of powering 2.5 million homes by 2020.

This is the conclusion of a study released yesterday (July 3) from think tank CentreForum, which says that a key growth barrier for the sector is feedstock supply, particularly securing long-term food waste contracts.

According to one of the report’s co-authors Quentin Maxwell-Jackson, the Government needs to phase out organic waste to landfill by 2020 to achieve a significant uptake in source-segregated food waste collections.

This should be done progressively with sufficient lead-in times to allow households, businesses, local authorities and waste companies to adapt.

The study claims that segregated food waste sent to AD has considerably lower gate fees than incineration and landfill and is better environmentally.

According to John Woodruff, chair of the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO), councils are very much minded to collect food waste from households and local businesses if it’s economically viable for them.

Speaking at the annual Anaerobic Digestion & Biogas Association (ADBA) exhibition and conference today in Birmingham, Woodruff referred to the £250m funding pot set up by Eric Pickles under which councils can apply to set up weekly refuse rounds, including separate food waste collections.

“Over 400 applications have been submitted for this fund and a good proportion of that is for food waste collections,” he told delegates.

However of those councils that are operating food waste schemes, most are being sent to in-vessel composting facilities “because they are there”, Woodruff pointed out.

“We know AD is better, but we need the facilities. If there’s an AD plant handy and a good gate fee, why wouldn’t we?” he said.

But hesitation over the technology still persists according to Alan Lovell, chief executive of Tamar Energy, who said that waste firms were “being a bit awkward” in signing up to AD projects until a plant is built.

Tamar Energy has ambitious plans to build 44 AD plants over the next five years in the UK with a total output capacity of 100MW.

“It’s a cart and horse situation. It makes it hard to build a plant if the [feedstock] contracts aren’t in place. Waste companies are very important to us, but they are reluctant to commit,” he said.

Maxwell-Jackson said that problems around financing AD facilities were “a fact of life” but that greater understanding around feedstock risks would help to overcome this.

“Trying to get an AD scheme up and running at the moment is like trying to win a cycle race with the brakes on,” he said.

Maxine Perella

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