Growing the UK’s appetite for food waste
As the waste industry continues to digest the contents of the European Commission’s revised Circular Economy package, one area in particular has been singled out for debate.
Incentives for councils and businesses to capture food waste have long been a priority for the organics recycling sector to generate feedstock and AD growth, but policymakers in Brussels have been reluctant to crackdown on member states that continue to send it to landfill.
While the latest package failed to come out in support of a landfill ban, the Commission has set its sights on halving the amount of biowaste produced across the EU by 2030. In order to achieve this, it wants Member States to ensure the councils and businesses separately collect biowaste where technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP).
The worry for many is that TEEP – already applied to dry recyclable collections in the UK under regulations that came into effect last year– has so far failed to drive the change the EU now expects it to deliver at an international level. A number of local authorities in England faced with mounting budget cuts claim they simply do not have the resources to switch to kerbside sort systems – let alone collect additional materials.
At a UK level, there also seems little appetite to confront food waste head on. Despite a private member’s bill currently making its way through Parliament, Defra has conveyed its refusal to back mandatory targets on food waste recycling or prevention, opting instead for businesses to enter into voluntary agreements.
At a recent Westminster Forum meeting on the Circular Economy, frustrated delegates pointed to Scotland – where the organics sector has received a boost in the wake of legislation requiring businesses that produce more than 5kg of food waste per week to present the material separately for recycling.
The Commission has reasoned that with its new landfill diversion targets, Member States will have no choice but to increase separate collection of food waste in the years to come. But given the cool political climate, recyclers in England are going to be in need of more convincing.