Time to move on food waste

It is almost 10 years since the recycling minister at the time, Lord de Mauley, wrote to local authorities saying that councils should be proud of the part they have played in achieving a national recycling rate of 43%.

Steve Eminton is editor of letsrecycle.com

Ten more years have nearly come and gone – the letter was actually sent in October 2013.

Lord de Mauley wrote a letter to local authorities saying that he understood “that many local authorities are currently looking at their arrangements for collecting and disposing of waste”. He declared there was “no time for complacency” as an EU target of 50% recycling of all household waste was required by 2020.

While some of these 10 years have been genuinely difficult – Covid 19 most notably impacting – the general lack of achievement since is alarming.

Wales has set the pace with a 56% recycling rate, leaving out the top-ups it achieves with adding in rubble and some commercial waste recycling. Around a third of its success is down to food waste recycling and it is here that England is lacking.

Food waste continues to make up a large component of residual waste bins and even in areas where food waste collections operate, take-up can be poor.

Defra in December 2022 seems to have stepped up the pace, but only by a little. It wrote to waste disposal authorities (WDAs) with a questionnaire to determine “barriers to introducing weekly food waste collections and how these could be overcome”.

The authorities were told that if they didn’t reply with a reason, it would be assumed that their supplying collection authorities could introduce food waste collections.

Such research and message come very late in the day. There needs to be swift pressure on collection authorities themselves to accept the idea of food waste collections within their boroughs, districts and cities.

For the recycling rate to rise significantly food waste collections are the easiest and swiftest way to raise rates fast.

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