Ban food waste to landfill, urges major recycling group
England should follow the rest of the UK's lead by introducing a food waste to landfill ban to help feed more anaerobic digestion plants, an industry expert has asserted.
Alexander Maddan, chief executive of organic waste recycling firm Agrivert, says there is as much as seven million tonnes of food waste that could be extracted from England’s waste stream and used to create renewable energy.
Speaking at an industry conference held by the Renewable Energy Association (REA) yesterday, Maddan - whose sector deals with 40% of the UK's recycling - said: “What can DECC do for us? Well we would like a food waste to landfill ban. There is no logic that tells me we shouldn’t have a food waste to landfill ban.
“We shouldn’t produce food waste in the first place, but nations do - it’s a fact of life. And therefore we shouldn’t send any of it to landfill - we can instead make renewable energy and fertiliser out of it.”
The number of local authorities in England carrying out separate food waste collections has increased, from 69 in 2010-11 to 89 in 2012-13, but as Maddan points out, only a small proportion of food waste is actually collected.
“Even when you have food waste collection schemes, you’ll still find about 50% of a households food waste in a residual bin, so there’s a great deal further to go. But it can be a real resource.”
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, regulations require food waste to be collected separately for anaerobic digestion rather than landfill. The Scottish Government has said that recovering energy from its food waste – which is estimated to be around two million tonnes – could power a city the size of Dundee for six months.
A complete ban on food waste going to landfill in England would similarly force local authorities to collect leftovers separately from households and businesses, which would provide the supplies needed for anaerobic digestion. Such a move is also necessary because the UK will run out of new landfill sites by 2020 and the UK has to meet EU rules to stop biodegradable waste going into landfill by the end of the decade.
Maddan’s comments come in the same week that several of the UK’s representative bodies for the waste and resource management sector, and local authorities, have sent a letter to the new Resource Minister, Rory Stewart.
The letter – signed by the REA, ADBA, CIWM, ESA, ICE, Resource Association and the Waste Network Co-ordinators - highlights the key areas of the sector which, if focused on by Defra, could improve resource management in England, and help boost England’s waste & recycling performance.
It reads: “Waste is a valuable source of materials, energy and nutrients. The industry has grown strongly over recent years despite the adverse economic climate and has the potential to make a further important contribution to growth and job creation.
"However, we are concerned that progress in improving resource management in England has stalled and we would like to offer to work with you and your officials at Defra to help turn this situation around.”