Leeds City Council—Food Waste Recycling Feasibility Study

The Brief

Leeds City Council is the second largest unitary local authority in England with waste and recycling services being provided to around 300,000 properties. The Authority has worked to double the recycling rate from its 2006 level to around 40%. Despite this increase, Leeds has an ambition to attain a 50% recycling rate and looks to implement further recycling initiatives which may improve performance. Material streams that are not presently collected at the kerbside, including food waste, have been explored through feasibility assessment.

WRM were approached to conduct a feasibility assessment of city-wide food waste collections to build on an existing trial food waste collection service that the Authority had implemented in the Rothwell area. Having previously looked at a standalone food waste collection service, the Leeds City Council waste team were keen to explore other collection approaches, such as split body vehicles and food waste pods on alternate weekly collection vehicles.

“AS ORGANIC WASTE SPECIALISTS, THE WRM TEAM WERE ABLE TO PROVIDE A GOOD LEVEL OF INSIGHT INTO VARIOUS FOOD WASTE COLLECTION OPTIONS. THIS WAS SUPPORTED BY DETAILED KNOWLEDGE ON COSTS AND MARKET DYNAMICS WHICH SUPPORTED THE FEASIBILITY ASPECT OF THE PROJECT”.

Waste Strategy manager — Leeds City Council

The solution

WRM worked to first understand the applicability of food waste collection approaches, before developing a techno-economic model that evaluated the financial and qualitative performance of each option.

Evaluating rounds for efficiency opportunities – At the outset of the work, WRM evaluated existing round data for all material collection services to identify any under-utilised capacity within current collection services which could be re-deployed to support food waste collections. This aspect of work also looked at the balance of residual and dry recycling collections within the alternate weekly collection service to identify the opportunity for including a food waste pod on the existing collection rounds.

Identifying areas with potential high capture rates – to support the focus on expanding the current Rothwell food waste collection trial, WRM undertook waste mapping at a LSOA level. This provided an indication on where the highest yield would be obtained following any available support to expand the collection service.

Preparation of business case – on conclusion of the research and analysis, WRM developed a detailed cost model to evaluate the performance of each option, and to provide a basis for comparison and decision making.

Outcome – The work concluded that, at the time of the work, food waste collections remained unaffordable for Leeds City Council. Furthermore, the level of surplus capacity within existing services was insufficient to support expansion of the Rothwell trial. Notwithstanding this, Leeds City Council continue with their ambition for food waste collection, and recently included a food waste treatment Lot in their 2020 organics procurement.

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