Speaking at the Anaerobic Digestion & Biogas Association’s annual conference in Westminster this week, RUR3 Environmental director Jacqui MacCaig told delegates that the sector had tended to concentrate on food manufacturers, supermarkets and local authorities for the supply of food waste.

But she urged the industry to explore a wider range of sources and cited hotels, pubs, clubs, restaurants and schools as an example.

“This is something that is relatively untouched,” she said. “We haven’t got a big infrastructure of collections rounds in the UK at the moment. It’s growing but it needs to grow even more. This is the market that we need to tap into a lot more to divert food waste from landfill.”

MacCaig also urged supermarkets and food manufacturers to think locally. She advised against transporting food waste great distances and said that supermarkets and food manufacturers should be encouraged to supply smaller AD plants local to waste arisings where possible.

In the same session, Julia Barrett from ADEPT, a membership organisation that represents local authority chief officers, told delegates that long-term fixed contracts were unrealistic. She also said that it was incumbent on local authorities and AD operators to be innovative and to not just think about AD as an end-pipe solution.

“It’s really important as part of that relationship building that you understand where local authority costs, barriers and issues are,” she said. “Most of the issues are in terms of collection. If you can think about assisting with that collection, you’ll break down a lot of those barriers.”

Barrett also urged AD operators to look at other ways to support local authorities. “Most big waste disposal authorities will have to pay carbon tax. If you can provide them with energy to run their facilities, not only have they not got to buy the fuel, they’ve not got to pay the tax on emissions.”

Andy Olie, business development manager at May Gurney Environmental Services, a contractor that has over 20 local authority contracts, said that the structure of two-tier local authorities made it difficult to control where municipally-collected food waste ended up.

“The two-tier nature of local authorities makes life quite complicated when it comes to actually deciding who owns the waste and who can commit it,” he said.

“Sometimes the disposal authority may need clarity from the collection authority about exactly what they are going to collect and how and this causes delays. District authorities in turn don’t always see the benefit of collecting food in a segregated form if they don’t get credit back from the disposal authority for that food diversion.”

Nick Warburton

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie