Mince pies at carol concerts, festive menus at office parties and turkey upon turkey with the family; Christmas is a time for over indulgence and it’s not just the bathroom scales that suffer the after-effects, it’s the environment too.
In 2017, it was estimated that Brits throw away around 54 million platefuls of food every Christmas, with seven in 10 admitting to buying far more food than they need and two thirds admitting at least some of the turkey usually ends up in the bin.
Although, we’re unlikely to coerce a nation into cutting back on the annual splurge at the supermarket, the UK’s largest organic waste recycling company is dreaming of a green Christmas, as it encourages seasonal revellers to recycle their food waste this festive period.
Keenan Recycling, which operates across the North of England and Scotland, currently processes more than 100,000 tonnes of organic waste a year. A large proportion of this is used as bio-fuel for anaerobic digesters (AD) which converts unwanted and surplus food into green energy at plants in the North of England and Scotland.
With England not likely to introduce a food waste law until 2023, they are already lagging behind Scotland which enforced the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012 act in 2016. This legislation requires all businesses that produce over 5kg of food waste per week to recycle it – helping to combat the estimated 270,000 tonnes of food wasted every year in the UK.
Although it’s important that households take steps to reduce their festive food waste, organisations in the hospitality, education and retail industries could make a huge difference to food waste quantities, particularly at this time of year, and support the circular economy by recycling their food waste rather than seeing it go to landfill.
Although there is no legislation in place, the increasing focus on sustainability and the need to dramatically reduce landfill, has caused a shift in attitudes and Keenan recycling has seen an increase in the volume of cafes, restaurants and hotels who are voluntarily choosing to make the right choice about recycling their food waste.
Keenan Recycling, managing director, Grant Keenan, explained:
“This year there’s been a spike in interest around becoming greener. Public figures, including David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg, are speaking out on ways to be more sustainable and help protect our planet. However, there has been a lack of education around food waste and how best to recycle leftovers.”
As well as the cost of wasting food, the current landfill process allows harmful greenhouse gas emissions to be released into the atmosphere. When thrown into landfill, food waste produces a large amount of methane and other gases which are 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere.
“At Keenan, we are passionate about about our role in the circular economy, and delivering a cleaner future across the UK. Following a significant investment earlier this year, including recruiting staff and introducing more refuse trucks, we have expanded our service into England. We’re now on a mission to make English businesses aware of the major impact they can have on the environment by recycling their food waste today and not simply waiting until they are forced to do so when the legislation comes into effect.”
Backed by a half a million pound grant from Zero Waste Scotland, Keenan is currently developing an innovative business model for their Linwood site in Scotland. The initiative sees the waste management businesses using an integrated approach to collecting and turning food waste into green energy, right from the moment it’s collected, through to processing. This includes the use of digital, handheld devices to report real-time collection results, before de-packaging and processing the waste into a bio-fuel for AD plants.
“Gas derived from our biofuel is used to create electricity, gas to grid and heat. After this stage a clean material called digestate is produced which can then be used as a biofertilizer by the agriculture industry. This matter is free of contamination, ensuring a high quality product for the end-user.
It is estimated that if all the food wasted at Christmas was recycled into energy, a medium sized home could be powered for 57 years! The team at Keenan has one wish this Christmas: for as many organisations as possible to choose to recycle their food waste. It’s not wrapped up and it won’t be found under the tree but it will provide a better, more sustainable future for the next generation.”
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