Speaking at this week’s third annual Anaerobic Digestion & Biogas Association conference in Westminster, DECC minister Charles Hendry responded to a question on the issue and said that a ban was not the way to go.

In an opening speech that underlined the Coalition’s support for the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry, Hendry told delegates that ministers recognised the need to provide operators with greater clarity over future policy to help the industry grow. As a key feedstock for the growing AD industry, food waste should not end up in landfill.

“To me, it seems particularly bizarre that we should be putting food waste from our schools and other projects into landfill when there are better ways of using it,” he said. “Therefore, putting pressure on our local councils to avoid that in the future has to be an important part of the process.”

Questioned on a landfill ban, Hendry argued that raising the landfill tax to £80 a tonne in 2014-15 would be enough of a deterrent to divert food waste from landfill without the need for a ban.

But Dr Stephen Wise, technical director for Shanks Waste Management, disagreed with the minister’s position in the afternoon break out session on waste collection, gate fees and the impact of Eric Pickles. Chairing a panel discussion, he said that a landfill ban on food waste would “send out a clear message into the market place”.

“I don’t disagree that increasing landfill tax will help to move food waste away from landfill but a ban will make a very clear statement about using food waste as resource,” he said.

Panelist Jacqui MacCaig, director of RUR3 Environmental, agreed but added that any ban should be phased in over several years because that would allow the AD market to become more established.

But Andy Olie, business development manager for May Gurney Environmental Services, urged a word of caution.

“Banning any materials on landfill is very, very difficult to enforce,” he warned. “What happens when the lorry arrives? Are you going to go through that truck and find out if there is any food in there? It’s very difficult to deal with on a practical basis.”

Olie added: “The reality is this Government has decided that the £80 tax should be enough and I think they are probably right.”

Nick Warburton

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