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Climate change advisers call for food waste collections

Local authorities should increase separate food waste collections as part of the UK’s battle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The committee warned progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was in danger of stalling unless the Government took action to prevent more waste being sent to landfill.

In its fifth report on the UK’s carbon budget commitments the CCC said although the second carbon budget was likely to be met, the Government was “not on track” to meet the third and fourth budgets. These targets would see an overall 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 1990 levels by 2027.

The report warned landfill sites were likely to remain a “major contributor” to emissions from the waste sector and said more food waste should be diverted into energy production through anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis.

The CCC also said there may be a case for banning wood from landfill sites. It criticised the Government for not properly considering the evidence when it rejected proposals for such a ban.

Charlotte Morton, chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, said the anaerobic digestion industry had grown by nearly 50% over the last year and had helped meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets.

She added: “However, as the CCC’s annual progress report shows there is still a huge amount to do to meet these ambitions. The Government needs to build on the progress which we have seen by providing long term certainty on renewable energy support, including through a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target.

“We also need stronger co-ordination between departments to deliver policies which support our carbon and energy targets, for example through waste policy which supports source segregation and prioritises inedible organic waste for anaerobic digestion. With this in place, the anaerobic digestion industry could deliver a huge contribution to decarbonising difficult areas, such as emissions from farms and heavy goods vehicles.”

David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC, said initial progress in reducing emissions was “largely due” to the economic downturn.

He added: “There remains a very significant challenge delivering the 3% annual emissions reduction required to meet the third and fourth carbon budgets, particularly as the economy returns to growth.

“Government action is required over the next two years to develop and implement new policies. A failure to do this would raise the costs and risks associated with moving to a low-carbon economy.”

The report said waste emissions, mostly methane, account for around 3% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. In 2011 waste emissions fell by 3%, mainly due to the landfill tax and the EU landfill directive.

It also said there had been “good progress” in reducing waste from households and businesses through voluntary responsibility deals such as the Courtauld Commitment and information awareness campaigns.

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