Defra is set to exclude mandatory food waste collections by local authorities as a policy proposal for its forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy.
Following a recent meeting between the Organics Recycling Group of the Renewable Energy Association and the Defra officials working on the strategy, the group reported back that mandatory collections are “unlikely” because of the cost burdens they would mean for councils.
In a statement, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) said imposing additional cost burdens on councils is a “significant concern to Defra” adding that “it is unlikely that mandatory food waste collections will be imposed as seen in Scotland and in Wales”.
However, REA did point officials to its 2016 report, written by Eunomia, which evidenced that “collecting food waste does not have to cost more when all costs are factored in”.
This week, Jeremy Jacobs, technical director at the Renewable Energy Association (REA) commented that Defra “didn’t give much away” as to whether mandatory food waste collections would be included in the document.
“The likelihood is that some drivers will be put in place, but if it’s not mandatory local authorities aren’t going to change,” he told letsrecycle.com.
Mr Jacobs revealed that around 48% of local authorities currently collect food waste, and there has been no “significant” increase over recent years.
In recent months, Barnet council announced plans to discontinue separate collections for food waste in the borough, in an effort to save around £300,000 per annum.
Mr Jacobs said that “potentially” more councils could look at a similar move.
Changes to the system will have to be funded and need support from the treasury, Mr Jacobs explained. “It will incur a big cost but we need to be committed and bite the bullet,” he said.
However, Mr Jacobs said he does expect a big section on food waste in the Waste Strategy and recognition of its importance. “Defra are starting to get the message, they are listening more, but we need to see some action.”
Speaking at last year’s LARAC Conference in Nottingham, resources minister, Therese Coffey revealed that measures to help local authorities deliver weekly food waste collections could feature in the Resources and Waste Strategy.
“LARAC’s view on mandatory food waste collections, for councils, would be that it could only happen if substantial funding was made available.”Carole Taylor
On food waste Dr Coffey declared that to achieve both future carbon targets and recycling rates “we want to get much more of the 4.6 million tonnes of food waste collected by councils each year diverted and recycled. We are actively working within government to help that in the future but expecting more in our strategy next year.”
When contacted by letsrecycle.com, Carole Taylor, chair of LARAC – the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee – said the organisation’s view is that mandatory food waste collections for councils could only happen if “substantial funding” was made available.
“This would be required to ensure that funds were not taken from other essential council services,” she said.
REA’s 2016 report on the economic benefits of separate biowaste collections, funded by organics recycler Olleco, found that separate food waste collections would be likely to yield savings. “These may be direct savings that come from lower treatment costs for separate food waste, or indirect savings that the introduction of separate collections allows, such as changes to residual waste collection frequency.”