Philip Simpson, commercial director of PDM, discusses how a landfill ban on food waste is a key part in eradicating waste to landfill, but not the whole story.
Between the upset over HMRC’s increased landfill tax charges, and the EU’s ambition to abolish landfill altogether, we see the waste industry once again come into sharp focus.
We know that food waste is one of the largest waste streams going to landfill and that an implementation of a ban on this source will help the UK deliver on its obligations under the EU Landfill Directive, as well as secure renewable energy. I believe it’s also the vital step that must be taken to bring England in line with other European countries, including Scotland with its Zero Waste initiative.
But it’s not about taking a hard edge approach; there are fundamental factors that are yet to be completely explored before a ban can successfully work. This is something that we’re addressing through Vision 2020, an initiative which has brought together key players from the public and private sector to identify best practice and look at how to stop food waste going to landfill. The panel’s aim is to ensure a successful transition to a ban that offers viable and commercially beneficial alternatives to landfill.
To do this we need to take a phased approach to a ban, ensuring that the right environment for change is achieved. A ban should follow the end of a process which delivers cost effective infrastructure and keeps business drivers at the forefront. It also needs to deliver the requirement to sort food waste and the sooner businesses and consumers start to segregate their food waste the better – as this will help them to identify exactly what they are throwing away and where they can avoid such waste with almost immediate effect.
Communication is key
When it comes to the food waste recycling infrastructure in the UK to date, a lot of focus and government funding has been placed on anaerobic digestion (AD) as the best solution for recycling this particular source. But we need to be communicating all of the solutions available – their benefits and limitations, to ensure that waste producers are aware of all the options that are available.
Furthermore, through communication and education, producers can choose the best solution for the waste they produce e.g, mixed commercial waste is best suited to AD while meat produce should be rendered. If people are aware that there are different cost effective alternatives to handle their specific food waste, they will use them.
Food waste is a valuable resource but this needs to become the general view among the business and wider community so that landfill is not the natural and accepted option for such waste. Industry and government need to work together to educate audiences on food waste value and all of the processes available - an approach that seems to have worked for paper, plastic and electrical recycling.
As countries such as Scotland are moving quickly ahead with their own waste initiatives and landfill regulations, it is clear to see that a ban can be delivered. There’s no excuse for the rest of the UK to lag behind those countries and we will be watching closely to see what lessons can be learned to ensure a similar, successful solution UK-wide.