18 January 2010

Feeding Leftovers to Landfill?

Research by the UK government has found that 78 per cent of people support having a separate food waste collection to enable recycling of food.

Excerpt from Warmer Bulletin, 23 December 2009

'Around 230,000 tonnes of food ends up in the bin over the Christmas period - that's equivalent in weight to 4.6 million whole turkeys ending up in the bin. This often ends up in landfill, contributing to harmful methane emissions but with separate food waste collections, leftover turkey, sprouts and Christmas pudding could be recycled and turned into compost for local parks, or used to create energy to heat homes.

The research project, led by consultancy Brook Lyndhurst with the support of Resource Recovery Forum and Waste Watch, which surveyed over 4,000 households around the country, also showed that 92 per cent of people who frequently use their council's food collection find it easy to use...

The research has shown that well-run food waste collections can generate high levels of participation; they can capture 20-50 per cent of available food waste; and be widely supported by residents. The highest performing schemes in the study are capturing around 90-100 kg/hh/y of food waste.

Participation is generally stronger for home compostable materials (fruit & vegetables) than for meat, meal scraps and runny foods. The loss of such materials from collections seems to be more about reluctance or forgetfulness than lack of knowledge that such items can be recycled.

Several reasons contribute here: the identity that organic or compostable material has in individuals' minds (ie fruit & vegetables); reluctance to have contact with more messy foods; and believing that food waste collections offer nothing extra than if foods are home composted...

Commenting on the research, Mr Benn said:"How can it make sense to feed our landfill sites with our Christmas leftovers every year when we could be recycling them and turning them into something useful? Our latest research is very encouraging as it shows that separate food waste collections are definitely working in the areas that are using them, and - more importantly - people are happy with them. We would like to see all local authorities collecting food waste as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest."

137 local authorities in the UK now provide food waste collections for their residents, around a third of all the local authorities who collect waste...'

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