Around 10 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK. People like me – living in a small flat, without outdoor space for a compost heap, nor green or food waste collection – are part of the problem. So, what do you do with your food waste?
Trips down to the compost heap at the bottom of the garden with a box of fruit and vegetable scraps were part of my childhood. Although nothing usable goes in the bin as far as possible, banana skins, egg shells etc end up in my general waste. In my area, it’s incinerated, without the chance to break down into compost.
In theory, I could collect my food waste scraps and see if I could take them to a local green waste collection centre. In practice, I’m not keen to store enough food waste in my flat to make the trip worthwhile.
In England, 48% of local authorities don’t operate food waste collections. But the rest of the UK is much better; all authorities in Northern Ireland and Wales do, along with 91% of local authorities in Scotland.
If your council collects food waste from your home, it’ll go either to a compost centre, or an anaerobic digestion centre. If you don’t separate your food scraps from your general, black bag waste, it’ll either end up being incinerated (usually to create Energy from Waste) or going into landfill.
Over half (7.7 of 15 million tonnes) of the municipal waste that went to landfill in 2015 was biodegradable, the government estimates. It has targets to reduce this, as biodegradable waste decomposes to produce methane (a greenhouse gas).
Future of food waste
Wrap, a not-for-profit sustainability organisation, estimates that food and drink accounts for 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions. By 2025, it estimates that the average family will waste £700 per year on food unnecessarily. So it has set out a plan for reducing food waste by 2025, and is working with government, industry, and consumers to achieve it.
A recent report on food waste from the House of Commons’ Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee recommended a national food waste target for England, making it compulsory for retailers to publish data on their food waste, and a review of whether ‘best before’ dates on food are necessary.
Tesco already publishes its food waste data. Sainsbury’s is also beginning to do so. But doing so is voluntary and no other retailers have so far taken up the challenge.
Though business food waste is part of the problem, we as consumers can also do a little more. Around a fifth of us already compost, according to our survey (1,067 members of the general public in March 2017).
What do you do with food waste?
It is collected by my local authority (42%, 507 Votes)
I compost it in my own compost bin (34%, 412 Votes)
Nothing - it goes into general waste (23%, 274 Votes)
I take it to a local green waste collection centre (1%, 13 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,206
And if you use a food or green waste collection, make sure you’re not putting items in which could contaminate it – scraps of plastic are the biggest problem.
Do you make compost from your food waste? What would you do to reduce our food waste?