‘Strong’ TEEP case for separate food waste collections

There is a strong TEEP case for councils to collect food waste separately from households – but a “policy push” is needed to offset the cost.

This was the message from Peter Jones, consultant at Eunomia, who discussed the implications of separate food waste rounds at the 2016 Organics Recycling Conference near Daventry yesterday (3 March).

The annual Conference, now in its 22nd year, saw delegates and regulators from across the organics recycling sector convene to debate the latest changes surrounding feedstock, soil science and tariffs.

Peter Jones Eunomia ORG conference 2016
The Organics Recycling Group conference discussed food waste collections (l-r) Peter Jones, Eunomia; Alexander Maddan, Agrivert; Lizzie Sagoo, ADAS; and Mike-Falconer Hall, WRAP

Chaired by ORG’s Alexander Maddan, Mr Jones was also joined on the session panel by Lizzie Sagoo, soil scientist at ADAS and Mike Falconer-Hall, Organics programme arena manager for WRAP, who revealed that the government-backed charity is to announce provisional food waste reduction targets for England.

Discussing an upcoming report by Eunomia, Mr Jones outlined the preliminary findings of investigations into whether collecting food waste is too expensive in the current economic climate.

Cost

The Eunomia expert surmised that while separate food waste collections were technically environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP), “local variations” for district and borough authorities made it difficult to overlook the cost.

These included a lack of coordination between two-tier authorities with separate agendas on collection and disposal, and the many different collection systems in place across England.

Mr Jones added that to remedy this, a “policy push” would be required by Defra, but warned it would be difficult to persuade government of the benefits of separate food waste collections unless savings could be shown.

He continued that there were savings to be made by councils while anaerobic digestion (AD) gate fees remained low in the short-term due to an excess of throughput capacity in the UK.

“We have had over a decade of rising landfill prices,” he said. “Meanwhile the availability of AD capacity is in excess of food waste leading to lower gate fees that can’t be sustained in the long term. But that’s a large opportunity to show that per tonne you can save a great deal.”

More opportunities to find funding for the collections could come from councils reducing the frequency of residual waste rounds from weekly to fortnightly. Mr Jones claimed it was “definitely not feasible” for councils to consider three or four-weekly collections unless they were already taking the food waste out.

WRAP

Discussing the future of organic waste recycling, Mr Falconer-Hall announced that WRAP’s new Courtauld 2025 agenda would address many of the concerns rife within the sector – particularly the 7 million tonnes of avoidable food waste produced by consumers each year.
He said: “We are working with industry to implement a food waste recycling plan. It won’t solve all our problems; cost is a real challenge but there are savings to be had. Courtauld 25 will look at all aspects of food waste from pre-farm gate to post-consumer.”

Asked whether WRAP would follow the Scottish Government’s lead in implementing food waste targets for England, he added: “There will be food waste targets in Courtauld 25, and those targets will be in the public domain from 14 March.”

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