Did you know that recycling just one tea bag a day for a month can produce enough energy to make another five cups? Plus, a full food waste caddy can generate enough electricity to toast eight slices of bread1.
England is a bit behind the other UK nations when it comes to recycling food waste. But, if you’re lucky enough to live in a council area that offers food waste collections, you’re well on your way to your next cuppa.
The good news is that change is coming to all UK households.
New regulations to boost food waste recycling
The UK produces an estimated 9.5 million tonnes of food waste annually.2 Much of that goes to landfill where it rots, releasing methane – a harmful greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
To put that into perspective, for every million tonnes of food waste not recycled properly and sent to landfill, 24,000 tonnes of methane is released, equivalent to the annual emissions of almost one million cars2.
England has not met the government target to recycle 50% of waste from households by 2020. According to 2018/19 figures from WRAP, almost half of England’s 326 local authorities don’t provide any food waste collections. With 69% of the UK’s annual food waste coming from households, only 20% is recycled.
Only 115 councils provide a separate food waste collection service, sending this valuable organic resource to Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants, where it is used to produce renewable energy electricity and biomethane. We’ll talk more about that later.
However, the Government has set out plans in its Environment Bill for weekly household food waste to be collected separately from all households.
Does my food recycling really make a difference?
In a word, yes.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) states that every year, nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted across the globe. Reducing and avoiding food waste whenever possible is all of our responsibility and when unavoidable it must be recycled and treated properly, ideally through AD.
AD is the breakdown of organic material by microorganisms in the absence of oxygen. In 2021, Bio Capital processed over 370,000 tonnes of food waste (equal to the weight of 30,528 double-decker buses), preventing over 200,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions from landfill.
From food waste, Bio Capital create:
A recent Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association report demonstrated how AD maximises the value of food waste recycling. It is an effective way to help local authorities meet their net-zero targets by recycling to create renewable electricity, cleaner transport fuel, decarbonising the gas grid, and replenishing soil health and renewable CO2.
In fact, by managing our food waste through AD, we are converting ‘waste’ into valuable low-carbon bioresources, resulting in a 6% cut in the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Let’s Get Real About Recycling Week 2022
Recycling Week is upon us, taking place between the 17th and 23rd of October, with the theme ‘Let’s Get Real’ – challenging the perceptions and myths about recycling.
Although most of us are pretty good at recycling our rubbish, food waste recycling isn’t something we always think about, especially those of us whose councils don’t offer food waste collections.
Pretty much anything can be recycled… from meat & fish (raw or cooked), fruit & veg, diary products & eggs, teas bag & coffee grounds, out of date foods…. the list goes on.
It’s important to remember, however, different authorities have different recycling capabilities. Therefore, checking what can be recycled in your area is best.
What about businesses?
Around 40% of the UK’s food waste comes from businesses and the hospitality industry. To help reduce that, you could consider things like:
- Keeping track of your stock so you don’t overbuy
- Storing food safely and correctly to minimise spoilage
- Donate surplus food to charities and local organisations
- It is usually much cheaper to send food waste to AD rather than dispose of as part of general waste
Why not get in touch with Bio Capital to find our nearest AD plant and recycling services to you?
You can also recycle your food waste at home
If your council doesn’t currently offer a food recycling collection service, you can still do your bit at home. As well as freezing leftovers, making soups and stews or composting why not get creative!
- Create your own cleaner by steeping orange/lemon peels in vinegar. Cover and leave in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks and strain!
- Drizzle vegetable peelings with salt and oil and bake for a cheap and healthy snack
- Use frozen vegetable scraps for stock
- Fill your ice cube trays with leftover herbs and olive oil
Anaerobic Digestion is the solution
As you can see, there is no reason our waste food should be going to landfill sites or be burnt alongside black bag general waste when Anaerobic Digestion provides a valuable renewable energy and bio-fertiliser from unavoidable food waste.
The incoming regulations we spoke about earlier, that will ban sending biodegradable material to landfill, along with efforts to ensure local councils are providing separate food waste collections to households, offer the opportunity to increase the availability of this waste stream to AD plants for a more sustainable future.