David Adams MD Reflects On The UK’s food waste Challenge

22nd September 2014

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Incredibly, around 40 per cent of food waste generated in the UK is still disposed of via landfill; and due to the practice of landfill layering and resultant methane production this brings with it a devastating global warming consequence.

Over the past 20 years we have come a long way as an industry, with the change in wider landfill behaviour being driven by two key elements – effective targets and taxation. Now, our shared goal of zero food waste to landfill is the next challenge. To do this, we need to work together to change attitudes of UK businesses’ and work towards making a sustainable future a reality.

“A UK-wide ban on food waste to landfill is required when it comes to our war on waste and our quest to re-use and recycle.”

At 707 we support Scotland’s lead in taking the first UK step to address the food waste to landfill issue with the Zero Food Waste Plan. It is clear that we need to win the hearts and minds of our leaders in business and policy makers at Westminster if we are to follow the spirit of Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan. I believe if we collaborate, we can inspire and bring the Zero Food Waste Plan to UK landfill a step closer for most businesses across the whole of the UK.

The challenge is one for us all to promote the argument that separate food waste collection does not have to cost the earth. We of course need to work together on a dual approach centred on the financials and legislation to make segregated food waste collection a widespread workable option for all sectors and minimise the contamination of recyclable waste.

Of course, many care homes, retailers, restaurants and larger businesses do have separate food waste collections operating successfully and many of our customers report that separate collection leads to financial savings.

We must recognise that not all sectors generate enough food waste to make the financial argument for separate collections currently compelling. However, the recent example of a Sainsbury’s using its food waste to directly power their Cannock store should act as inspiration to all UK businesses. We also need to remember that the volume threshold for taking action and having segregated food waste collection has also reduced markedly in recent years, making separate collection a cost effective option for many more businesses. Additional legislation support and investment in anaerobic digestion infrastructure will further drive down costs and make separate food waste collection normal practice for all.

In the long term, we in the resource industry will only win the argument and reduce landfill if we have the correct Government support and market conditions/environment to deliver.   If we can gain momentum and scale companies who segregate their waste, we can then analyse the level of food waste they produce and, by prevention and effective collection, reduce costs.  These sector trail blazers can then can support education and understanding of the benefits and promote widespread adoption by all UK businesses.

If the targets, taxation and best practice examples are in place we as a waste and recycling industry can provide a cost-effective solution to all businesses in all sectors.

If we win this argument, the benefits to the climate are clear. We, as a growing industry, must collaborate and illustrate the cost benefits to business. Only then can the last piece of the jigsaw be put into place; to challenge people to see food waste as a resource.  We can then create the market, and, via anaerobic digestion, create renewable energy, employment and valuable chemical free fertiliser.

Let’s win the debate, accelerate action and lead by example to make zero food waste to landfill a UK-wide reality.

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