Landfill tax is hindering food waste-free future

The landfill tax system is failing to divert food waste from landfill but introducing mandatory separate collections of the material will help the UK to achieve a food waste-free future by 2020, according to ReFood.

This is one of four key recommendations in a report launched by the food waste recycler in collaboration with entrepreneurial charity BioRegional.

The report entitled Vision2020: UK roadmap to zero waste to landfill is the culmination of more than two years’ work and highlights how separate collections of food waste from homes and businesses could optimise its value to provide energy nutrients for agriculture and heat.

Speaking to LAWR at the launch of the report yesterday (November 11), commercial director Philip Simpson said the landfill tax was not working. “Fundamentally, the model (waste collection) is driven by the industry charging for the weight of a bin rather than the weight of the material collected.

“One bin equals one price regardless of how much you put in it. If heavy mixed waste bins can be collected for less than the cost of landfill tax the economic benefit of recycling is lost.

“Food waste is heavy, so there is no driver to recycle food waste once it is in a mixed waste bin.”

Simpson also said that those who recycle and have lighter bins are being penalised under the current system because they are paying the same or more as those who have heavier bins and do not recycle their material.

The report’s other principal recommendations are:

  • Compulsory separate collections of food waste from homes and businesses, with an outcome that optimises its value to provide energy, nutrients for agriculture and, preferably, heat.
  • Greater collaboration at every stage of the supply chain and between key stakeholders to accelerate the adoption of best practice, improve waste prevention and maximise the value of food waste as a resource.
  • The integration of food waste education into school, college and professional training programmes and increased support for WRAP’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ initiative.

The study also highlights where and why food waste is happening at each stage of the UK supply chain; what actions are being taken to tackle food waste in each sector and what more can be done in the future to drive the positive environmental, economic and social outcomes, for the greater good.

Its ambition is to:

  • Save the UK economy over £17bn a year by 2020 through the reduction of food wasted by households, businesses and the public sector.
  • Prevent 27m tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) a year from entering the atmosphere.
    Return over 1.3m tonnes a year of valuable nutrients to the soil.
  • Generate over 1 terrawatt-hour (Twh) electricity a year, enough to power over 600,000 homes.

The report has been authored by ReFood, the UK’s foremost food waste recycler, in collaboration with BioRegional, an entrepreneurial charity that promotes sustainable businesses through its One Planet Living philosophy.

Simpson explained: “Our message is clear; food waste is a valuable resource that should never end up in landfill sites. Everyone from the food producer, through to the retailer, the restaurant and the householder can play their part in ensuring that we take full advantage of its considerable potential by ensuring we re-use, recycle and recover every nutrient and kilowatt of energy it has to offer.”

BioRegional chief executive Sue Riddlestone, OBE, added: “Achieving zero food waste to landfill within the next seven years is a big challenge and we will need the support and actions of individuals, businesses and the government if this vision is to be realised.

“However, the case for change is compelling. We will save billions of pounds. We will prevent millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering our atmosphere. And crucially, we will ensure that food is treated as a precious resource.”

Liz Gyekye

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