Subsidies for anaerobic digestion (AD) plants coupled with an insufficient collection regime are crippling the sector, according to Philip Simpson, commercial director at food waste recycler ReFood.
Simpson, above, said that gate fees at AD plants had fallen by £50 a tonne since 2013 with operators fighting for feedstock.
He said that financial stimulation from for the sector, such as Wrap’s AD Loan Fund, had created intense competition.
“In some cases, those with external funding are able to undercut landfill or existing gate fee levels, this is not what such funding was awarded for and goes against the principle that the ‘waste producer pays’,” Simpson writes in the latest issue of MRW.
“Taxpayers’ money is, in some instances, being used to reduce the cost of disposal to retailers and food manufacturers.”
In addition, he said that there is a conflict between the growing capacity in the AD sector and a failure to increase the amount of food waste being captured for recycling.
Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association, said that food waste collections were vital in improving recycling rates.
According to Morton, Wrap’s 2013-14 local authority audit showed that England was lagging behind the rest of the UK, with only half of local authorities offering any form of food waste collection.
“Clearly the absence of segregated food waste collections policy in England is constraining the development of food waste plants,” she said.
“Gate fees continue to fall with increasing competition and AD industry growth will be limited unless the Westminster government offers the necessary policy and support to ensure households and businesses have the opportunity to recycle food which can’t be eaten.”
A spokesperson for Defra said: “Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste, and together with WRAP we are working with food retailers and industry to improve products, packaging and guidance which can help consumers to save money and avoid waste.
“Subsidies are available for the AD industry, not for those sending organic waste to AD.”