England must learn from best practice employed in Scotland in order to step up its commitments regarding food waste recycling, according to Phillip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood.
His claims follow the news that England’s “lacklustre approach” to food waste recycling is seeing it fall firmly behind its northern neighbours, as was revealed in a new report by Zero Waste Scotland.
Simpson points out that data published earlier in July showed that food waste recycling in Scotland increased by 40 per cent between 2013 and 2017, thus minimising unnecessary landfilling and preventing more than 40,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.
He said that this was a direct result of legislation implemented in 2012, which mandates businesses in Scotland (producing more than 5kg of food per week) to recycle their food waste.
“In stark comparison, food waste recycling in England is still optional despite compelling statistics demonstrating the potential of CO2 emissions reduction, the amount of renewable energy that could be harnessed via anaerobic digestion of the waste, as well as the money and resources that could be saved,” Simpson said.
“Earlier this year, proposals to implement uniform recycling collections – including separate food waste recycling – were rejected by the Local Government Association (LGA) in England, despite households throwing away more than seven million tonnes of food waste annually.
“However, local authorities in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have all implemented mandated national systems, from which all three countries are all reaping financial and environmental benefits – as we can see from the figures published for Scotland.”
The UK currently has 150 different collection schemes, with many local councils locked into long-term waste contracts.
The LGA suggested that a move to a national system would be a ‘sensitive issue’ for these councils, many of whom would perceive it as handing over their powers to central government.
But Simpson says that regardless of the issue being sensitive, it was essential for English local authorities to review what its near neighbours are achieving and review their own recycling targets, as often local councils are more likely to offer the cheaper solution than the best one.
He added: “The savings that local authorities could make by reducing the use of landfill, and the subsequent renewable energy generated from recycling of food waste, is far greater than the initial costs of implementing and rolling out a uniform food waste recycling solution.
“Scotland’s progress shows the real-world impact of embracing a mandatory ban on sending food waste to landfill and highlights the positive impacts of prioritising recycling. England has a long way to go to catch up and needs to start now.”