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REA defends ‘self-serving’ food report

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has defended its latest report that calls for mandatory separate collections of food waste which has been labelled “self-serving”.

The report, The Real Economic Benefit of Separate Biowaste Collections, written by Eunomia and sponsored by Olleco, concludes that separate food waste collections are cost-effective and should be made mandatory for councils and businesses.

It claims separate collections would lead to fewer and lighter residual collections, lower landfill tax costs and cheaper gate fees at anaerobic digestion plants.

But the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (Larac) dismissed the report as “self-serving”, criticising it for a lack of consultation with councils, and arguing the potential for making savings in England was much more limited than claimed.

Larac chair Andrew Bird said the report failed to take into account “huge financial support” offered by the Welsh and Scottish Governments to their local authorities to introduce of food waste collections, giving them an advantage over English councils.

The REA has responded by saying its report modelled the costs associated with separate collections for businesses and local authorities, while collaboration would be ”critical” to improving collection systems.

Technical director Jeremy Jacobs said the association recognised councils’ differing financial circumstances and praised them for protecting public services while experiencing budget cuts.

“We agree that support from the Government would help to speed up the transition, and recognise that implementing change has a cost, most of all when it cannot be planned well in advance.

“That is why we are not campaigning for immediate change. We ask that separate collections be introduced over a multi-year timeframe, to allow councils to introduce them at the most economically sensible time – perhaps when they upgrade their fleet or tender their service.

“Our core point was to highlight that direct and indirect savings are possible and cost need not be a barrier to introducing separate food waste collections.

“We would be delighted if our report served as a platform from which we can have a constructive conversation with local government and others about how we can work together to overcome barriers, reduce costs, improve sustainability and meet our legally binding carbon budget and 2020 renewable energy and recycling targets.”

Bird also criticised a recent Environmental Services Association (ESA) report, which called for the transfer of the ownership of household waste streams from the public to the private sector under extended producer responsibility, for failing to consult local authorities.

The ESA has yet to issue a response to Bird’s comments.

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