Today, 1 March, is the first day of the UK’s first Food Waste Action Week. The WRAP initiative will help to raise awareness of the quantity of food wasted as well as how, where and why it is wasted and the consequences of doing so. It will also promote action which will help to reduce food waste.

And on Wednesday 3 March, WRM director Mark Richmond will address the National Food Waste Conference, examining the impact of the pandemic and the changes that are coming for household food waste collections.

It is widely acknowledged that more than a third of all food produced globally goes to waste. It is a staggering volume and we all share a collective responsibility to do more to waste less. Put simply, if food waste is not reduced, the effect will be disastrous – it is already responsible for approximately 10% of the total man-made greenhouse gas emissions. And while it is widely accepted that food waste accounts for around 5% of total household waste, the associated carbon emissions represent a quarter of the waste sector’s carbon footprint.

2020 has been billed as the year that provided a major wake-up call for many, on the urgent action required to protect the planet. And we know that consumer attitudes are changing as individuals seek to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Forming part of Garnier’s One Green Step Report, a survey of more than 18,000 consumers in eight countries, found that recycling was a priority for two thirds of respondents (65%) while more than a third (36%) said keeping a green resolution would be easier, now they are more knowledgeable about the environment.

The findings which were widely reported in popular media, illustrate why it is so important to raise awareness of food waste, and help people take action to reduce it. And for the first time since the introduction of the 2003 LATS initiative, we are now seeing policy drivers focused on the collection and recycling of organic waste, from central government.

Meanwhile, recent estimates suggest that only 50% of local authorities currently offer residents a kerbside collection of food waste. The mandatory requirement for all English local authorities to collect food waste by 2023 which is a key element of DEFRA’s Resources and Waste Strategy, will therefore be a key challenge in the months ahead.

To ensure they can procure an effective solution and meet the 2023 obligations to provide food waste collections, local authorities need to act now. The procurement process for a design, build and operation (DBO) contract is likely to require at least 12 months and a similar period or longer needed for the construction of treatment infrastructure. The need to understand the preferred collection options and treatment solutions is therefore urgent.

It is also very likely that we will see a shift towards allowing comingling certain waste collections such as food and garden wastes in the updated Resources and Waste Strategy. This will help local authorities to provide a service that best serves the needs of their individual communities while still achieving the environmental gains that underpin the Strategy’s objectives of diverting organics from the residual waste stream.

To help local authorities navigate the wide range of technical, logistical and financial considerations which must be handled in the next two years, WRM has launched its Developing a Biowaste Strategy guide. Designed to help decision makers examine all relevant considerations and implement the best value biowaste solution for their catchment, the free guide deals specifically with collections of food, garden and co-mingled waste.

This new guide sets out the collection and treatment options which will be available to local authorities and considers their financial performance as well as qualitative considerations such as the impact on existing services and carbon management.

In order to help identify the most effective and best value solution, the guide also examines requirements such as the need for robust techno-economic assessment and modelling, drawing on more than 100 years of combined experience working on organic waste strategy, public sector biowaste procurements, feasibility studies and due diligence projects.

To find out more, download the free WRM Developing a Biowaste Strategy guide.

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