London’s domestic food waste

Titled ‘Bag it or bin it? Managing London’s domestic food waste’ this new report join similar calls for London to step up it’s food waste processes, and explores a number of strategies and methods for keeping the capital’s food waste away from landfill.

Making food recycling more accessible

A big task for the report was to find strategies which allowed for a manageable cost, whilst also making food recycling more accessible and easy to understand for residents, businesses and local authorities.

“In contrast to the now well established collection of ‘dry’ recyclables such as paper, metal, plastic and glass, the separate collection of food waste remains comparatively rare in London, with fewer than half of all households receiving a food waste collection service,” commented Stephen Knight, chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee .

“At the same time London is struggling to meet its recycling targets while landfill capacity is fast running out. The case for improving the collection of food waste is therefore compelling,” he continued.

The report called on the Mayor to help secure Government resources for separate collections and to do more to support schemes like the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and Recycle for London.

It also said that the Mayor must ensure that the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) can continue its programmes to support boroughs in the long term.

“At 34%, the capital has one of the lowest household recycling rates in England and rates for inner London are even lower, at just 16%,” noted Knight.

“When we take a closer look at how London’s boroughs are performing we are seeing a concerning lack of consistency, with 10 boroughs still not collecting any household food waste at all.”

Making recycling choices

“We realise that cost is a major factor when local authorities’ make recycling choices, but separate food waste collection schemes need not be more expensive. Effective food waste collection will reduce the amount of waste generated in the first place, potentially making the service cost-neutral,” concluded Knight.

Liz Goodwin, chief executive of WRAP, took to the stage at a waste and resources conference in Dubai to underline the importance of food recycling this week.

A new report from the London Assembly Environment Committee has called for an immediate refocus on the capital’s food waste management efforts as landfill space is starting to run out.

Head of the Waste Resources Action Programme, Goodwin delivered a number of new figures and statistics that underline the need for every nation to look into how they handle food waste.

The International Forum on Sustainable Lifestyles was United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and aimed to encourage a more global conversation on the subject after the UNEP-led ‘Think Eat Save’ campaign launched last year.

Goodwin said, “An area the size of Wales would be needed to grow all of the food we throw away from our homes each year in the UK. That’s about a quarter of the size of the United Arab Emirates.

WRAP estimated that two million tonnes of waste could be saved by 2025 in the UK alone.

“WRAP’s expertise of UK food waste prevention is being utilised internationally,” she said. “Through the ‘Think Eat Save’ campaign, WRAP is helping UNEP initiate the set-up and delivery of a South African pilot.”

Goodwin encouraged delegates to consider the difference that this wasted food could make to the world’s impoverished, citing, ”One in three food items going to waste.

It’s a dreadful amount, whichever way you look at it and it’s crazy that we collectively allow it happen. But that’s the reality.”

New report on the state of waste collections in London

“It equals 1.3 billion tons of food.” continued Goodwin, “It’s a hard figure to visualise. You get a better idea when I tell you that it’s enough to feed all that are hungry in the world. Not just once. But four times over.”

A new report on the state of waste collections in London has put the spotlight on food recycling this week, as it was revealed that of London’s 33 boroughs, just 23 offer separate food waste collections.

Titled ‘Bag It or Bin It: Managing London’s domestic food waste’ revealed that only two thirds of the UK capital offer separate food waste collections, despite numerous pilot schemes, awards and incentives for the normally progressive city.

The report also highlighted that flats are the exception to the rule for many boroughs, with 16 local authorities skipping flats even when they do offer food waste.

Chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee, Stephen Knight, said; “At 34%, the capital has one of the lowest household recycling rates in England and rates for inner London are even lower, at just 16%. When we take a closer look at how London’s boroughs are performing we are seeing a concerning lack of consistency, with 10 boroughs still not collecting any household food waste at all.”

London is pushing a number of post-consumer food waste schemes, where even after collection food waste is being sorted so that it can fuel anaerobic digesters rather than being shipped to landfill.

Initiatives like FoodCycle also step in to the waste stream, reclaiming food waste and making food for high food-poverty areas.

Suggestions on improving the recycling rate in London include:

  • London boroughs to allocate resources for separate food waste collections for all properties.
  • Improvements in data collection on food waste to meet demand.
  • Extra funding from City Hall and the government, as well as devolution of landfill tax to London.
  • Schemes to boost resident participation in food waste recycling.
  • Include provision for waste separation and minimisation in new developments.

Whilst the debate on food recycling seems to be chugging a long at a steady pace, with more and more local authorities see the benefits of proper food waste management, in addition to central government.

However, the next battleground already seems to be in sight – and that’s what comes next for food waste packaging.

With zero waste to landfill as the goal, food waste packaging is the unwanted defender in the way. Often unsuitable for ‘regular’ recycling after being in contact with food, the packaging for products has to go in general waste.

Likewise, for areas with regular food waste collections, these containers aren’t always biodegradable, so would be unsuitable to go in food and garden waste, too.

Oxford City Council is one such local authority currently grappling with what to do when it comes to recycling food waste packaging. Council members are toying with nipping the issue in the bud in some senses, by voting on a proposal that will require street food traders to use only biodegradable or recyclable packaging and utensils.

A spokesman for Oxford City Council said: “The council’s general purposes licensing committee approved a proposed condition for food traders which requires all packaging and utensils for use by customers to be made of biodegradable or recyclable materials.

The condition is intended to reduce the amount of commercial waste that goes to landfill.