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Selling food waste recycling to households

Food waste 2000

Latest figures show an encouraging rise in the number of households receiving a food waste collection.

It’s now 49% across the UK while, back in 2007, it was just 12%. But the provision of kerbside food waste collections is far from uniform.

In both Scotland and Wales, national policies have resulted in the rapid rollout of such collections. In England growth has been slower, with just over half of councils providing some or all of their households with either a food waste collection or a service where food can be mixed with garden waste.

The amount of food waste collected by these services varies widely, with householder participation often disappointingly low and significantly lower than participation in other kerbside recycling services. As a result, only around 11% of the food waste collected from households is captured for recycling – the rest is collected in the residual waste, which is a massive loss economically and environmentally.

To help change this, WRAP has updated and added to its food waste collections guide (see box below). Divided into 11 sections, it summarises latest research, introduces new tools, makes key recommendations and provides practical advice. And to further support increases in food waste recycling, WRAP has also launched some new food waste recycling communication materials that consider key areas.

Householder perceptions

The reasons for low participation are complex, and include confusion on what makes up food waste and a lack of understanding about what food waste recycling actually is. Others include a household’s engagement with the service, the collection frequency and type of property they live in – all of which are tackled in the guide and by the communications materials.

WRAP tested householders’ perceptions of food waste and found that one of the reasons people did not participate in recycling was because they think they do not produce any food waste. That is hard to believe when we know that seven million tonnes of food waste come from households. Others are put off by the perceived ‘yuck’ factor and general messiness of it all.

But the reality for people who do participate is quite different. Users reported very high levels of satisfaction – more than 95% on average.

Overcoming negative perceptions and boosting existing collections

Overcoming those negative perceptions and engaging householders on why a food waste collection is a useful and beneficial service is vital to the success of the scheme.

Working with a number of local authorities, WRAP tested a package of measures to improve the performance of household food waste collections. It found that the combination of free caddy liners, an informative and well-designed leaflet and a residual bin sticker which said ‘no food waste please’ had a big impact, increasing the amount of food waste collected by an average of 30% in pilots.

Communications

Whether introducing a service or improving participation in an existing one, communications is essential. Having a plan of what you want to do is key, but having the communications materials with the right messages can also make a big impact.

Following consumer research, Recycle Now has produced a suite of downloadable and adaptable communication templates for its partners to use when engaging with people on food recycling (available at partners.wrap.org.uk/ collections/77/).

Available in English, and with Welsh language versions in production, the resources include leaflets, posters and vehicle livery and cover both motivational messages and service information.

They have been designed to help overcome the known barriers to householder participation and address key areas: the benefits of recycling food waste, focusing on energy production through anaerobic digestion; what happens to food that gets recycled; the idea that there is no amount too small to recycle; and the environmental impact of sending food waste to landfill.

They are being showcased in a number of areas including South Northamptonshire, while Recycle for Wales is running campaigns in Newport, Torfaen and Merthyr.

Understanding the impact and keeping costs down

Integrating food waste collections with other collections can help to ensure that services are delivered efficiently and cost-effectively. Understanding the impact that household food waste recycling can have on the cost of residual waste disposal can help to make the case for introducing a food waste collection service.

To help, WRAP’s Kerbside Cost Calculator (available via the local authority portal http://laportal.wrap.org.uk) enables councils to compare the indicative costs of a range of collection scenarios, not just food waste, and gives them the necessary information to help build the business case and make decisions on future collections.

Working better together

Food waste collectors and food waste treatment plant operators will benefit if more food waste is collected for recycling. Closer working will help, which is what the sector-wide Food Waste Recycling Action Plan, led by WRAP, is working towards. There will be more about this in the coming months.

The Household Food Waste Collections Guide (www.wrap.org.uk/hhfoodwastecollections) is designed so that users van dip in and out of relevant sections. It will help to bring clarity on the possibilities and encourage the collection of more food waste for recycling.

WRAP Guide: Household food waste collections guidance

  • Householder perceptions of food waste recycling
  • How much food waste can be collected for recycling
  • Food waste caddies and caddy liners
  • Collection vehicles
  • Communications
  • Food waste treatment including bulking and hauling
  • Collecting from flats
  • Costs and productivity
  • Implementation of a successful food recycling scheme
  • Increasing capture of food waste from existing separate weekly collections
  • Health and safety risk assessments

Linda Crichton is head of resource management at WRAP

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