The Environment Agency (EA) has issued a Regulatory Position Statement that changes its policy on the use of food waste management systems by the foodservice industry.
Whereas initially the EA determined that on site treatment would require a permit, the agency has now confirmed that, so long as operators comply with the Regulatory Position Statement’s requirements, a permit will not be needed.
The change was achieved by the FEA Food Waste Product Group, who presented the case, engaging with both the EA and DEFRA. The EA had identified a gap in policy enforcement and wanted there to be a requirement that operators applied and paid for permits to treat food waste on-site. Many equipment manufacturers were sent letters last October requesting performance characteristics of their food waste management systems. FEA’s Food Waste Product Group worked with these manufacturers to present a collective position. This gave figures relating to market penetration of food waste management systems and the estimated waste volumes being treated. It also underlined the issues that operators face in managing their food waste.
Virtually everyone agrees that the collection of food waste for anaerobic digestion (AD) is a good policy. The FEA supports it, too, but its campaign highlighted that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and that the various alternative technologies available can provide a greener solution, depending on the site’s circumstances.
FEA argued, in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, hygiene and safety have become even more important than before. The association’s chair, John Whitehouse, said: “What if kerbside collection services are disrupted or cancelled? In such cases, there would be clear hygiene hazards and foodservice operators would have no choice but to send food waste to landfill. This is not in keeping with the overriding desires and principles of the government Waste Strategy.”
The assocition also pointed out that up to 20% of food waste collected for AD goes to landfill, due to contamination, while alternative on site systems of food waste management can contribute significantly towards the zero-landfill targets.
FEA cited examples of these alternative systems, including dewaterers, digesters, sink to sewer disposal, in vessel composters and grease traps, grease removal units and bacterial dosers.
Whitehouse welcomed the pragmatic response from the EA, saying: “We support the use of AD but do not believe it can, or does, provide a universal ‘best’ solution for all end of life food waste producers in the foodservice market. AD should be complemented by other on-site alternatives which, as a result of the Food Waste Product Group’s campaign, do not now require the operator to have a permit from the EA.
“Waste producers must be able to apply ‘TEEP’ (technical, economic, environmental and practical) principles to determine the best route available to them for their food waste. This principle is an element of our representation in the consultation regarding the Environment Bill, currently going through the committee stage in government.”