Weekly food waste collections to launch in England by 2026

Households across England are set to benefit from weekly food waste collections by 2026 and the Government will also move to ensure that all local authorities collect the same items in dry mixed recycling.

Weekly food waste collections to launch in England by 2026

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has this weekend promised to implement the changes, almost five years after they were first touted in the Resources & Waste Strategy (RWS), published in late 2018.

The Department is has outlined plans to put an end to the ‘postcode lottery’ for recycling from homes and businesses, by introducing a set list of materials that everyone across England will be able to place in their recycling bin.

These are metal, glass, paper, plastic and card. Dry recyclables will be collected together in one bin.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated last month that he had “scrapped” plans to introduce segregated dry recycling systems that would result in homes “having seven bins”.

The Government has since clarified that while it did explore segregated recycling as promised in the RWS, this would not have resulted in as many bins as seven, but this was apparently a common misconception that MPs were asked about.

The Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) has stated that the changes should boost recycling rates which have, as it has been pointed out already this week, remained stagnant for several years.

Also in the pipeline are plans to ensure that all homes are served with regular food waste and garden waste collections. Food waste collections will be weekly by 2026 at the latest. Other waste collections should happen at least once a fortnight. Defra has stated that this change should allay the frustrations of communities currently dealing with bin collections every three to four weeks.

London has already implemented food waste collections from all homes. Food collected is either transformed into compost or used to generate energy. The UK Government has not yet clarified plans for processing food waste collected across newly-served areas once weekly collections are in place.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Our ambitious plans will help every household, business, school and hospital in the country to recycle more. We have listened to councils and come up with a system that will increase recycling in a way that does not clutter our pavements with numerous bins and smelly food waste collections for weeks, making recycling simpler and more effective.

“This will help us to make the most of our finite and precious resources while reducing carbon emissions and protecting our precious environment from harmful waste.”

The Environment Act commits the UK to halving residual waste by 2042, against a 2019 baseline. Given that residual waste increase by 13% on a per capita basis between 2014 and 2019, the UK’s environment watchdog has recommended that Defra makes significant interventions to turn this trend around. 

The Aldersgate Group is urging Defra to build on today’s announcement with more clarity on other parts of the RWS, including mandatory eco-design standards and extended producer responsibility scheme (EPR) reforms. EPR reform is already underway for packaging and has also been promised for products including mattresses and textiles.

“The Government should make resources and waste policy a cross-departmental priority: collaboration will be key to ensuring all sectors of the economy can reduce waste at the pace that is required,” said the business group’s executive director Rachel Solomon Williams.

Comments (3)

  1. Roger Munford says:

    A German expert once told me that they collect paper and card seperately becasue the “dry” reccyclables never are and contaminate the paper which dramatically lower its value.
    Keeping paper separate enables the packaging collections to have “Does not have to be clean, just empty” rule which helps avoid the temptation to chuck it it the rrestmull.
    Glass containers are generally standard (beer milk water etc) and have deposits and onlly the odd glass bottle like wine and spirits gets through.
    The government have also saved themselves a lot of work by pushing responsibilty for collection and recycling to the packaging producers. This means that every town and village is not concerned with packaging waste (in the uk we talk abyout recyables as if it is some sort of natural phenomenon, in Germany because every package has a name written on it they know who produces it and who should pay for collection and recycling. This has led to a nationwide organisation who collect all packaging and recycle it. If it cannot be recycled if cannot be used for packaging. Simple. In the UK the government decides what is collected and recycled

  2. David Dundas says:

    It is my understanding that the Envornment Act 2021 requires all councils in England to collect food waste separately from 1st april 2023. This is being done by a few councils but mostly none of them do this. Food waste can be processed in an anaerobic digester to release biomethane which is a valuable fuel that can be used to replace fossil methane in the gas grid. If any organic waste is left to rot in the open, the resulting gas methane is around 28 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2; fortunately it breaks down into CO2 in an average of 8.3 years but this is still a waste of energy first captured by sunlight.

  3. Rob Heap says:

    This, like many of the government’s environmental improvement plans, is a can being kicked down the road and, with Defra responsible, it it unsurprising that, as quoted in the above article, “The UK Government has not yet clarified plans for processing food waste collected across newly-served areas once weekly collections are in place.”
    So, not only are HMG kicking the can down the road, but they are also putting the cart before the horse with ill considered plans that do not offer a holistic solution.
    It is clear that food waste should primarily be processed in Anaerobic Digestion (AD) processes (as appropriate, dry or wet technology) and secondarily, in composting systems. The UK urgently needs source segregated household waste food collections and reduce HGV emissions. Here we have the beginning and the end of a superb closed loop renewable energy system, where household food waste is converted in AD into biogas and it is then upgraded into biomethane and this fuel is used to power the food waste collection vehicles and other HGV’s. Currently, there is insufficient food waste available in the appropriate quality and quantity (and sometimes in the wrong geographical location) to enable significant progress to be made in expanding the AD produced biomethane for HGV fuel market. Source segregated household food waste collections destined for AD help to solve this problem. Come on HMG (Defra) bring a common sense practical approach to the table for once in your existence and get this done.

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