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Recycling figures spark food collections debate

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has clashed with local authorities over the need for mandatory food waste collections, as the latest figures show an increase in food recycling.

In its response to Defra’s statistics showing an unprecedented dip in overall household recycling for England and the UK, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac) pointed out that food recycling had in fact increased and said mandatory collections of the material were unnecessary.

Some 307,000 tonnes of separately collected food waste were collected in 2015, up from 290,000 the year before. This figure has been steadily increasing since 2010.

But the REA said that Government action on food waste collections was still needed, and reiterated its call for a mandatory requirement to be introduced.

Technical director Jeremy Jacobs said the UK’s food waste collection record was not good compared with other European countries such as Italy.

Out of 18.8 million households in England that receive a waste collection, he said, 5.5 million households have separate food waste collections and 4.8 million have food and garden commingled waste collections.

Jacobs called for Government funding to support more councils in providing collections, with a mandatory requirement ideally to be introduced alongside this.

He told MRW: “Householders need greater support to encourage increased participation for current schemes.

“Central Government, however, needs to provide more funding if we are to see the step change we require to move things on. I am not aware of more than a handful of new food waste collection schemes that have been rolled out in 2016, with some also taken away due to cost.

“I believe that, without intervention from the Government, we will not see the volume increase we require to get this material out of mechanical biological treatment and energy-from-waste sites, a wasted resource.”

Lee marshall

Lee marshall

Speaking to MRW, Larac chief executive Lee Marshall (pictured right) said his organisation still did not support mandatory collections even if funding were provided.

However, he did say such that funding would be welcome to assist councils voluntarily introducing separate collections.

He said: “If the funding is there specifically to introduce food waste collections, then in areas where the business case does not stack up, potentially that would make the difference.

“The funding is the key bit because if the business case stacks up, then local authorities are likely to look at implementing it.

“It’s that initial investment to make the changes necessary to then realise the savings further down the line, if there are savings to be had.”

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons on 16 December, shadow environment secretary Rachael Maskell issued a written question asking whether the Government would take steps to increase the number of local authorities providing food waste collections.

In response, resources minister Therese Coffey said: “Local councils should make decisions on waste and recycling services, including the provision of food waste collection, taking into account local circumstances and providing the service that local people want.”

She went on to mention charity WRAP’s English food waste plan published earlier this year.

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