Thinktank urges government to ban food waste from landfill

Wed, 04-07-2012

Councils should be supported to collect organic food waste which could be turned into renewable energy, rather than have it sent to landfill, says the study by the thinktank Centreforum.

Due to be published this week by the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) which funded the study, the independent report states that financial support should be provided to help councils bring in separate food waste collections for households and businesses. This would ensure a steady supply of organic waste for Anaerobic Digestion (AD).

This would in turn create biogas which could potentially power more than 2.5m UK homes by 2020, the report found. However, the report also found that there were many barriers to increasing energy from AD, and that currently getting an AD scheme off the ground was like “trying to win a cycle race with the brakes on.”

If a ban on sending food waste to landfill were to be imposed, councils would be forced to collect leftovers from households and businesses. This would be no bad thing as the UK will run out of new landfill sites by 2020, and also has to meet EU rules on sending biodegradable waste to landfill by 2010.

The market for “digestate” – the leftover organic material after the AD process has finished which can be used as fertiliser – also needs to be developed.

Quentin Maxwell-Jackson, co-author of the report, says “Anaerobic digestion technology has so many clear advantages over other waste treatment and energy generation options that it is very surprising it has not taken off in a big way yet in the UK.”

Thomas Minter, Director of Malaby Biogas says: “We welcome this report which provides further evidence of the benefits of food waste collection for processing in AD plants. We have an operational plant in Wiltshire with plans to develop additional capacity. Having ‘in county’ AD capacity already in place should provide added incentive to provide food waste collections across the county. With up to 40,000 tonnes of food waste generated in Wiltshire each year, using our AD resource would massively reduce landfill dependence or out of county transportation of waste.  AD provides the only way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from food waste and generating renewable energy. Providing support to councils to switch to separate food waste collections unlocks the potential on a local level and allows an increase in recycling rates by removing the contamination.”