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Minister drops hint about English food waste collections

Capturing food waste

England needs food waste collections in the anticipated resources and waste strategy if it is to meet its environmental obligations, according to investment minister Graham Stuart.

He was speaking at the national conference of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) in London, and his comments are being taken by the organisation as the “strongest suggestion yet” yet that mandatory food collection schemes will be brought in.

Stuart said the forthcoming strategy will “require separate food waste collections” to reduce emissions from landfill, produce renewable energy and natural fertiliser through anaerobic digestion (AD).

He described AD as “the best option to treat food wastes both from commercial and domestic sources”, and said the UK’s AD sector had the potential to export waste management services and technical expertise around the world.

Stuart said: “We want food waste to be collected separately for use in AD plants – to make the green biogas that can fertilise our crops and heat our homes: an environmentally sustainable option for waste management that cuts down on landfill.

“[The resources and waste strategy will] tackle longstanding issues such as waste crime, collection systems, packaging and plastic pollution – including requiring separate food waste collections.”

Stuart also argued that AD has a huge role to play in decarbonising the UK’s heat system and heavy transport, in restoring soils and reducing methane emissions.

ADBA chief executive Charlotte Morton said the minister’s comments were the “strongest suggestion yet” that the strategy would mandate for food waste collections.

She said: “It’s an absolute no-brainer that inedible food waste should be separately collected so it doesn’t end up wasted in incinerators or landfill, and so that the energy and nutrition locked up in it can be reused, cutting the UK’s need for fossil fuel-based energy and fertiliser.”

Morton said the move would allow England to catch up with the rest of the UK in recycling inedible food waste, but added that it would need to be paired with “meaningful” funding to support local authorities to achieve “sufficiently high capture rates”.

James Richardson, chief economist of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), also spoke at the conference, saying the Commission had a “very clear position” on the benefits of AD.

He said AD offered cost savings to councils and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food waste, reduce contamination of other recyclable materials, and provide an environmentally friendly alternative to the use of natural gas in the gas grid.

He quoted the NIC’s previous findings that 79% of people who do not currently use a food waste bin would use one if their local authority provided it.

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