London boroughs urged to promote circular economy through food waste reduction

London boroughs need to develop the "circular economy of food" by separating food waste collection from general waste in order to rejuvenate plateauing recycling rates and boost activity in surrounding anaerobic digestion (AD) plants.

That is the suggestion from food waste recycling company Bio Collectors, which launched the Tackling London’s Food Waste report on Thursday (8 July). According to the report, only 18 of London’s 33 boroughs are collecting food waste separately, with only half of the capital’s food waste being treated in the city.

With the report highlighting that waste is sent out as far as Germany and Bulgaria, London-based Bio Collectors launched a new Just AD campaign urging London councils to turn to local AD plants, which are currently operating at just 50% capacity.

Bio Collectors’ managing director Paul Killoughery said: “Following our research into London’s food waste, our Just AD Food campaign aims to encourage London businesses to recycle more of their food waste. Our ambition is to put pressure on local authorities and decision makers who are still sending food waste to incineration plants or landfill, when it could be recycled responsibly, reducing the negative impact on the environment.

“The focus of shopping locally and eating locally sourced food should extend to how we deal with our food waste. This would then feed into the circular economy of food that travels from farm to fork, then back to farm.”

Capital concern

Alongside the lack of segregated collections, the report notes that London boroughs are sending food waste to areas such as Warwickshire to be treated which is creating an extra 206kg in carbon emissions per journey. But with just four biomethane and combined heat and power (CHP) plants located within the capital, the report has called for authorities and businesses to do more to ensure that these plants are operating at full capacity before waste is transported out of the capital.

Launched on the same day that WRAP unveiled its food waste action plan for England, the report notes that by law, segregated food waste cannot be sent to landfill and should therefore become a central priority for councils’ “waste hierarchies”.

With WRAP claiming that food waste is costing the UK more than £19bn annually, Bio Collectors has suggested that the issues is creating a £50m burden for waste authorities, while also generating around 2.1m in extra carbon emissions.

Food circles

However, the report believes that authorities should turn to the circular economy to alleviate pressures and ensure that the UK’s 107 AD plants are running at full capacity and generating more renewable energy in the process.

By following the examples set by Scotland and Wales, which have separate food collection percentages of 56% and 86% respectively, England can up its collection rates from 31% and establish an innovative platform to reduce waste and potentially create cleaner transport.

Bio Collectors, which processes around 11% if London’s 890,000 tonnes of consumer food waste, wants to contribute to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s “clean energy revolution” by using food waste to fuel local transport systems.

In a recent blog post for edie, Bio Collectors called on the Mayor to focus on London’s food waste as a means to ignite the capitals circular economy efforts – which could create 40,000 extra jobs.

Matt Mace

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