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Food waste

Introducing food waste collections is seen by many people in the industry as an essential way to increase recycling rates. Some local authorities in England warn that the service is too costly, and there are indications ministers are not in favour of the idea.

Do you think the Government should introduce mandatory food waste collections from households?

01 food waste

MRW has often reported the case made in favour of mandatory food waste collections. But after local authorities such as Barnet announced it would stop its service, the case against has been strengthening. We asked those who opposed the mandatory route to give their reason (some comments below). It is perhaps a surprise that there is so much resistance, with nearly a third of respondents being against the idea.

There are no ‘party lines’ dividing businesses and councils. A third of respondents from local government were against mandatory collections, the same proportion as for those from a waste management company.

Scotland and Northern Ireland both look to be overtaking England’s overall recycling rate and are catching up with Wales because they have introduced separate household collections. Anaerobic digestion (AD) businesses obviously want access to more feedstock, and many argue that, by separating out food waste, quality improves for other recycling streams.

Through the survey we now see some well-reasoned arguments why separate food waste collections might just not be practical, and ones that the pro-lobby will have to overcome. There will be an uphill climb – the Government does not seem keen on legislating, and Defra chief scientific adviser Ian Boyd has said separate food waste collections would “require a robust business case”.

The most common theme in respondents’ comments was the cost to councils – which, as one said, “would end up with the end user having to pay”. Storage problems for householders was also often mentioned.

There is also scepticism about AD as a technology, with some saying incineration is a more efficient route. One simply said: “Too costly. Energy-from-waste is the way to go.”

Some responses from those who said ‘no’

“Food stream will be collected/separated from general waste (packaging) anyway via increased use of newer technology and machinery.”

“Food waste AD plants have low efficiency and reliability.”

“It depends how far away the residents are from the facility/depot. A 20-mile journey for 1kg of food waste might not be efficient/cost effective/carbon friendly.”

“Recycling should be a choice, not enforced. What next – fines for not recycling?”

“Increase in vermin and wild animals while it’s sat outside in the heat. I’m not sure what benefit food waste would have on the environment if collected separately.”

“Can’t be mandatory as some collections have a huge degree of difficulty for collections and is impossible to police.”

“Small volumes can’t be collected efficiently and, in any event, the outcome of energy production through AD, EfW or landfill gas is broadly the same. So why burn more fossil fuels collecting it for the same outcome?”

“Locally, we have no alternative form of disposal, only incineration.”

“Local authorities are struggling to operate the waste services at present – the extra cost would have to be passed on to the public.”

“Small volumes can’t be collected efficiently and, in any event, the outcome of energy production through AD, EfW or landfill gas is broadly the same. So why burn more fossil fuels collecting it for the same outcome?”

“Locally, we have no alternative form of disposal, only incineration.”

“Local authorities are struggling to operate the waste services at present – the extra cost would have to be passed on to the public.”

”The take-up is likely to be low and it is not efficient use of resources.”

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