The governments ability to provide a much needed strategic steer on food waste under the Waste Review could be hampered by issues such as localism, the British Retail Consortium has warned.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com on Monday (April 11), Bob Gordon, environmental policy advisor at the retail body, said there was a need for greater leadership from central government on food waste in both the retail and local authority sectors.
But, Mr Gordon said that the government would avoid being prescriptive in the Waste Review and this could see England fall behind the devolved administration with regards to implementing a collection framework for food waste.
In Wales they have mandated it and in Scotland they have consulted on food waste collections but in England there are going to be held back, he said. They are also doing this at a time when they are slashing local authority budgets so we would hope to see strong leadership from central government and greater innovation from local authorities.
Mr Gordon said that retailers have become increasingly aware of the commercial viability of diverting food waste from landfill.
He said: If you send your food waste to landfill then it will cost you 100 per tonne but if you send it to AD then it is 60 [per tonne].
However, if you can separate out food waste and keep it from touching animal by-products, then you can send it to animal feed and actually get paid 20 per tonne. So there is an incentive there, definitely.
Discussing the potential positive outcomes for the retail sector, Mr Gordon said he hoped that the Waste Review would be the opportunity for small and medium sized businesses to make use of local recycling facilities.
One of the things we hear is that there could be more easy access to civic amenity sites for smaller businesses and we like that, we really like that, he said. In some areas they have to pay for recycling as well as disposal and with retailers there is an issue with having enough space to store material. So using the sites would help them and we like this.
Mr Gordon also pointed to the work undertaken by retail giant Marks and Spencer, which has taken the step to directly invest in the kerbside collection service carried out by the Somerset Waste Partnership (see letsrecycle.com story).
We would hope to see more of it and I think for Marks and Spencer what it is going to do for them is give them a better, more secure supply of material, he said.
It is not something I have heard other people doing but I wouldnt be surprised if this was picked up more. It gives them a good price for material and also gives them the PRNs [packaging waste recovery notes].
Mr Gordon said that it was more challenging for councils to ensure waste is collected and treated than it is in the retail sector. For example, retailers tend to have only a handful of stores within a specific region as opposed to hundreds of thousands of households of different size and topography.
However, he said moves to form waste partnerships have increasingly helped councils to achieve economies of scale, which, in turn, helped to encourage capital investment in waste treatment infrastructure.
He said: If there was leadership from local government that would give investors in waste management infrastructure the confidence and security to invest and then we could get better infrastructure.
There are a few waste partnerships, such as Kent, such as Somerset, and certainly I think there is an opportunity for that to happen and there is an opportunity for that as we go forward.