Food and glass recycling

4th September 2013 Posted by

Of the materials that we discard in our bins every week, two in particular are of concern – food and glass. When landfilled, food waste decomposes to release greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. Defra’s delivery arm, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), runs programmes to reduce food waste (the Love Food Hate Waste campaign) and to divert unavoidable food waste into other forms of treatment, notably anaerobic digestion and composting.


Glass waste is heavy and contributes significantly to the burden of landfill tax, currently at £72 per tonne. Along with food waste it is also a contaminant that, when present in mixed collections, substantially degrades the quality and the market price of dry recyclates such as paper and plastics.

Pulling these materials out of the waste stream is therefore a priority for environmental and economic reasons. Especially so for the business sector, which is not subject to the same regulations concerning waste collection and landfilling as are households, and hence relies on the initiative of its waste management contractors to design and deliver an environmentally sound, cost-effective service.

Supported by funding from WRAP, SITA UK has developed an innovative collection service in which food waste and glass waste is put into separate containers which are then collected in one vehicle. This makes it easier for businesses to recycle both materials at the same time.

Targeting the hospitality, catering and retail sectors, SITA UK has successfully piloted the new service in Birmingham since October 2012. Customers have found the system reliable, easy to use and cost-effective, with reduced collection and disposal fees. Keeping glass and food waste separate and away from the other recyclate streams has helped preserve their market value. Businesses in the Birmingham trials have also benefited by reducing their environmental footprint.

SITA UK’s goal for the pilot scheme in 2013 is to recycle 1,500 tonnes of food waste from Birmingham businesses, avoiding around 675 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and saving substantially on the disposal bill. Building on the success of the Birmingham trials, we are preparing to introduce the service in other areas of the country.

In its 2013 Progress Report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change has called on Defra to consider banning the landfilling of food waste. Getting the collection system right is crucial to realising the potential environmental and financial gains along the waste management chain. SITA UK’s bespoke food and glass waste recycling service is a first step in this journey.

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