Second consultations on the Environment Bill will include a focus on “transition timelines” for the proposed move to mandatory food waste collections.
The timelines idea was explained by Defra waste and recycling policy advisor, Sam Hare, speaking yesterday (17 February) at the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) conference on food waste collections from households.
The session was introduced by Charlotte Morton, chief executive of ADBA, who reiterated the importance of biogas in the path to net-zero.
Addressing the event on how food waste collections may be organised under a mandatory umbrella, Defra waste and recycling policy advisor, Sam Hare, said that the government will seek “further views” on how to work with local authorities with long-term waste disposal contracts in place, and help them to make the transition “as soon as possible”.
Mr Hare also appeared to concede that some local authorities would not have to actually make the switch as he referred to TEEP guidelines.
Mr Hare said: “There are circumstances where it may not be technically practical, economically practical, or there is no significant environmental benefit for separate collections. We are expecting to seek further views on these circumstances in upcoming consultations.”
Taking up the topic, a speaker from the LARAC local authority recycling officers’ group, said there needs to be an “honest discussion” between local government and Defra, to discuss the cost implications of the transition to mandatory food waste collections.
The ‘honest discussion’ call came from LARAC vice-chair John Coates, who raised concerns that there had not been enough discussion on how councils will tackle current contract commitments when implementing the statutory changes.
Mr Coates explained that “not all councils are in the same place”, and many will have to amend current residual treatment contracts.
He said that to achieve that in two years from now, is “challenging” and a “transition period is required”.
Mr Coates added that many discussions around the move to separate food waste collections surrounded the need for “dedicated vehicles”.
And, while this would be a “bumper day” for the vehicle manufacturers, to provide them in time for 2023 is a “huge ask”.
He continued: “The promise from government is that it will be fully funded but this has not been explained in detail to give confidence to councils that they will not find themselves in a financial mess.”
Mr Coates added that there have also been some “confused messages” coming out regarding the co-collection of food waste and garden waste.
He said that given the fact that some of the best recycling performances come from councils who operate In-Vessel Composting (IVC) treatment, whether or not these systems will be “utilised” in the upcoming legislation is a “cause for concern”.
When asked about recycling officers’ confidence in the government “picking up the tabs” on food waste collections in a question and answer session, Mr Coates explained that while he believes in the “sincere intention” of the changes, many procurement rules can be “stifling”.
“It’s not clear what fully funded and additional burdens is going to cover”
He added that local people need to be considered so that they are not affected by any financial ramifications.
And, he reiterated: “It’s not clear what fully funded and additional burdens is going to cover. There are massive costs in the system to get from where we are now to where we want to be. There are so many complications and we haven’t had those discussions. For example, if garden and food waste can’t be co-collected, that will be a system shock.
“So there are lots of complications and challenges. I will look forward to being involved in the process, but will withhold final judgment.”
‘Understand the issues’
Mr Hare responded to Mr Coates’ concerns in the question and answer session, saying it was helpful to “have the discussion” around these issues and to have Mr Coates on consultation groups so that Defra can “understand the issues”.
He continued: “Under the new burdens principle there wouldn’t be any increase in council tax, and we want to make sure it is all fully funded.”
“One thing that is really important is lead-in time and making sure councils have time to procure the infrastructure that is necessary. We are very mindful of that, and we will give more detail in the upcoming consultation.”
National Food Waste Conference
The fifth annual National Food Waste Conference, organised by letsrecycle.com, takes place online on Wednesday 3 March 2021. Join representatives from food waste processors, producers, waste management companies, local authorities and charities – to discuss the extent to which the sector has been impacted by the pandemic, incoming mandatory weekly food waste collections in 2023 and case studies exploring how we tackle avoidable food waste.
CLICK HERE to view the full programme of speakers.