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Hospitality sector needs financial reassurance from AD operators

Members of the hospitality sector have called for anaerobic digestion (AD) operators to demonstrate the economic viability of separate food waste collections and sending food waste to be processed.

Delegates at the AD and Hospitality Conference 2014, run by the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA), drew up a list of the most important barriers to treatment of unavoidable food waste through this technology:

  1. Lack of awareness, knowledge and education
  2. Cost of collection/financial viability
  3. Lack of legislation

ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton told MRW that a legislative ban on food waste to landfill would naturally address the first two issues of lack of awareness and collection costs.

However, Geoff Accott, national treasurer of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said financial viability was by far the most important factor in getting the hospitality sector to engage with AD.

He said green credentials are not enough and the sector needs to be convinced by AD operators of the economic advantages of separate collections.

Peter Jones, senior consultant at Eunomia, said: “Separating food waste is your absolute lynchpin. After a leap of faith, overall you should be better off.”

He added that the more separate food waste collections there are overall, the less it will cost.

The number of UK councils collecting food waste separately has increased to 118 (2012/13) up from 107 (2011/12), according to WRAP.

Brendan Hunter, key account manager hospitality and food service at WRAP, identified that the average cost of a tonne of food waste to a restaurant is £4,800.

As a result, Richard Barker, chief executive officer of Biogen, said that even if introducing separate food waste collections helped reduced food waste by just 1-3%, this would save significant amounts of money for the hospitality industry.

He also said this would easily make up for the waste management service costs.

The hospitality sector produces 510,000 tonnes of food waste a year (WRAP 2012), of which 50% is from quick service restaurants.

Problems for AD cited at the conference:

Peter Jones Eunomia said: “There is a weight problem with bins. Collectors charge by size of bin whereas processors charge by weight, which is a difficult mismatch.”

He also said there is a problem for AD operators relying on feedstock from SMEs as secure feedstocks are crucial to winning over investors.

Dean Pearce, regional commercial manager, ReFood, said there is a lack of leadership from Defra on this issue. He said letting businesses prescribe solutions to clients leads to a “myriad of solutions” that are not cost-effective.

He added: “There needs to be an element of command and control.”

Many delegates even claimed there is a need to change the name of AD to make it more accessible. ‘Waste food recycling’ was proposed as an alternative name.

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