COP26: Organics sector in global green and food waste call

The importance of tackling food waste globally to help “put the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions” has been emphasised at COP26 by groups including associations from the UK.

COP26 is being held by the River Clyde with Nature Day discussing food waste

On Nature Day, Saturday 6 November, an Alliance of organics recycling associations, including from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Europe all called for world leaders to make COP26 a turning point in history for the recycling of food and garden waste.

The alliance says that “every country, business and person can help mitigate climate change by recycling their unavoidable food and garden waste into fertilisers and soil improvers, and that action needs be taken immediately to get the maximum benefits from these valuable resources. This can be achieved by recycling them through garden, on-site or large-scale systems to create valuable carbon-rich organic matter for return to our soils for carbon storage, biodiversity, water conservation and food security. The alliance call for action to be taken now to implement systems to recycle organic waste back to soils.”

Both open landfills and food waste have been discussed at meetings alongside COP26

Food waste has emerged at some COP26 events as one of the areas to be tackled to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Alliance, data from the World Bank shows that 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 (1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide CO2 equivalent) were generated from solid waste treatment and disposal, with food waste accounting for nearly 50% of overall emissions.

The Alliance, which includes the organics division of the UK’s REA association, says that “climate stabilising benefits are also realised when compost and organic matter are returned back to our soils.”

Soils

In a statement it continues: “According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 95% of our food is directly or indirectly produced on our soils with organic matter being fundamental to its overall health, soil structure, biodiversity and biological activity of soil organisms and plant nutrient availability. The fact that the world’s soils act as the largest terrestrial carbon sink, reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, intensifies this role to significantly offset the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“Importantly, organic recycling is a highly affordable carbon capture tool and can be done at many different scales, accessible to all through local solutions which can also deliver added benefits in renewable energy production, improved water quality and conservation and food security.”

The global alliance consists of: The Association for Renewable Energy and Clean Technology (REA); The Australian Organics Recycling Association (AORA); Compost Council of Canada (CCC); European Compost Network (ECN); International Solid Waste Association (ISWA); CRÉ – Composting and Anaerobic Digestion Association of Ireland; WasteMINZ (Waste Management Institute of New Zealand); The United States Composting Council (USCC); and The Compost Research & Education Foundation (CREF).

Turning point

Jenny Grant, head of organics and natural capital at REA

On behalf of the global alliance, Jenny Grant, head of organics and natural capital at the REA, said: “COP26 offers a turning point in history for the recycling of food and garden waste.

“Our global alliance is urging world leaders to use this unique opportunity to make a major step change, by collectively agreeing to a major increase in the recycling of unavoidable food and garden waste back to soil as fertilisers and soil improvers.

“This can be achieved by recycling them through garden, on-site or large-scale systems to create valuable carbon-rich organic matter for return to our soils for carbon storage, biodiversity, water conservation and food security.

“With such a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions being generated from waste treatment and disposal, it’s crucial that an agreement is reached in Glasgow.

“With a decisive intervention, the recycling of unavoidable organic wastes is an immediate opportunity to help put the brakes on global temperature rises.”

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