Seven million tons of waste head to landfill every year, and that’s a national embarrassment
Companies and organisations that routinely produce food waste should be compelled by law to make arrangements to recycle it, as Britain’s increasingly full landfill sites reach crisis point.
An environmentally-friendly commercial waste and management company says that far too much organic waste still ends up in the UK’s hard-pushed landfill sites, when we should be aiming for a zero-waste economy instead of allowing it to produce harmful greenhouse gasses.
While Scotland has taken steps to ensure that businesses recycle their waste wherever possible, the rest of the UK is lagging far behind, the BigGreen.co.uk Company says. It could be time to follow the California model where all producers of organic waste become responsible for their recycling.
“It’s a well-known statistic that British homes throw out seven million tons of food every year,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “But the shocking truth is that companies in the UK do exactly the same. Another seven million tons, and that is nothing but a national embarrassment.”
BigGreen.co.uk says that while there are long-running campaigns to encourage households to reduce their waste footprint through buying more sensibly and by composting their own waste, it seems that many companies are still lagging behind and relying on landfill to dispose of unwanted food.
According to BigGreen.co.uk , the biggest culprits when it comes to food waste are:
- Food processing industry
- Waste from supermarkets and shops
- Prisons and other institutions
- Workplace cafeterias and canteens
“While it’s certainly possible for companies and organisations to recycle food waste, far too many just don’t bother,” says Hall. “And that’s why whatever shade of government emerges from May’s election should consider new laws for their first Queen’s Speech.”
Hall points to new regulations in the US state of California which came into force last year. California’s massive economy is comparable in size to Britain’s, and Assembly Bill 1826 requires all commercial generators of food waste to have it composted or transformed to energy via anaerobic digestion.
The motivation behind the Californian law is the same as that in the UK: Diverting perfectly good recyclable waste from landfill, and making arrangements for its future use.
“That may seem a big ask for any company,” says Hall, “And bosses will find themselves scratching their heads asking questions about anaerobic digestion as if it’s a major expense to their balance sheet. But there’s nothing to be worried about.”
All companies and organisations have to do is to make an arrangement with their current waste management company to collect organic waste separately. Most of these companies will even provide appropriate receptacles free-of-charge, and collect them frequently enough so that food waste is not left on the premises any longer than is necessary. Ultimately, it’s down to waste companies to adapt their practices to enable greener collections and onward recycling.
“Anaerobic digestion and composting are preferred outcomes for food waste, as rotting food left in landfill releases methane, which is one of the more damaging greenhouse gasses,” says Hall, “So the sooner companies get round to recycling organic waste, the better.”
BigGreen.co.uk notes that the biggest obstacle to the California model is what one local official called the “knee-jerk reaction” to new work practices. While many people are great with recycling every last scrap of paper and empty drinks can, we’re not so good at accepting we need to do the same with food waste, it appears.
“Most of the time, the general waste bin seems the most convenient place to dump unused food,” says Hall, “And now’s the time to change our mind-set when it comes to this – both in the home and in the workplace.”
Hall says companies should give serious consideration to improving their recycling regimes, even before being compelled to do so by future legislation.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he says, “and it will benefit both your company and your environment in the long term.”