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AD boss slams 'mixed messages' over food waste

The Anaerobic Digestion (AD) industry is being held back by a lack of organic waste targets, a senior industry figure warned this week.

Philip Simpson, commercial director at food chain by-product recycler PDM, said “mixed messages” from ministers had created an uncertainty that was putting investors off the sector.

Energy minister Charles Hendry told the House of Commons earlier this month that councils, rather than central government, should decide whether or not food waste should be landfilled.

This caused concerns that a ban on landfilling food waste, mooted in last year’s Waste Review, would not be forthcoming.

Simpson said legislation was vital to encourage more food waste recovery.

“We are not asking for cash, grants or soft loans,” said Simpson, “We need certainty. Then industry can start delivering the infrastructure to achieve it.

“What we are asking for is a clear, achievable policy which says that by a certain time, we will achieve a diversion of food waste from landfill.”

He said a 2020 target was realistic. “Compared to the timescales that have been put in place for other landfill bans, that’s plenty of time.”

Simpson labelled a £10m Defra fund set up to kickstart AD projects as “peanuts”.

“Just throwing £10m at the market and saying ‘this is for an AD plant’ is nothing. It’s peanuts. Our Doncaster plant, which is a relatively small one, cost £12m alone. Our next two plants have a combined cost of £40m.”    

Defra and the Department of Energy and Climate Change both issued statements to MRW last week insisting ministers did not want food waste to go to landfill and that a review on landfill restrictions for biodegradable waste would be carried out.

A Defra spokesperson added this week: “Our long-term aim is that no food waste goes to landfill. We are working towards this through the Courtauld Commitment targets and by developing a new voluntary agreement with restaurants, hotels, pubs and caterers.

“The Government is supporting the AD industry through renewable energy subsidies, and we are working with them to deliver the AD action plan. This includes making more information available on sources of feedstocks, and funding projects to make more food waste available for AD by improving collection from businesses.”

Consultant Philip Ward, Wrap’s former head of local government, said England should follow Scotland in implementing a ban on food by 2020.

“It is necessary to start with a requirement to collect food waste separately. But that will cost money - hence the DECC insistence that local authorities should decide,” he added.

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