The Environmental Services Association (ESA) has called for the adoption of a ‘biowaste hierarchy’ that favours composting over energy recovery in its first strategy aimed at improving resource efficiency in the organics sector.
Biowaste prevention tops the seven-grade ranking (see below), followed by reuse for human consumption, reuse for animal consumption, recycling via compost or digestate, energy recovery or chemical production, controlled disposal and, finally, uncontrolled disposal.
The association said that applying such a hierarchy would make sure that high quality output is used for high quality applications.
Existing incentives for biowaste treatment mainly focus on the production of energy and, the ESA points out, Defra supports anaerobic digestion (AD) as the environmentally best option for food waste.
“The benefits of returning nutrients and organic matter to soil have not been properly recognised by Defra,” it said. “The UK therefore risks underestimating the true value of compost and digestate in terms of nutrient cycling, avoiding soil erosion and water retention.”
Other actions in the association’s ‘Circular Organics - Biowaste in a circular economy’ are aimed at improving feedstock security and include:
- studying the impact of waste prevention
- developing a code of practice to monitor the level of contamination
- classifying AD as a recycling technology as oppose to energy recovery to encourage more local authorities to send food waste to AD
The ESA also urged Defra to produce a report by the end of 2016 on initiatives undertaken in the devolved administrations, including the mandatory food waste collections for businesses generating more than 50kg per week in Scotland, and the target in Wales to reduce food waste by 1.5% per year.
The strategy is being launched at RWM on 16 September. Stuart Hayward-Higham, chairman of ESA’s biotreatment working group, said: “The strategy seeks to explain the market in which we operate, to explore the barriers and solutions that exist and to deliver our vision in a practical way.
“We believe that this strategy, if adopted, could help maximise the benefits from this valuable resource.”