How increasing food waste recycling can help tackle climate change

18th September 2019 Posted by

Posted by Sarah Ottaway
Sustainability and Social Value Lead at SUEZ recycling and recovery UKSarah Ottaway

Food waste suffers from a real image problem. The mouldy remnants at the back of your fridge, or the smell of left over dinner that’s been sat in the food caddy for a few days, can dissuade even the most committed of recyclers from using the service regularly.

The seven million tonnes of food wasted every year in the UK contributes significantly to climate change, yet despite the huge public and media interest in plastics, and the impacts climate change is already having on communities around the world, it seems to go largely unrecognised outside of the industry. This is even more shocking when food waste emits nearly three times the levels of carbon compared to plastics, according to Zero Waste Scotland. Surely, if as a society, we want to help minimise the effects of climate change, food waste needs to be a part of our solution.

Yet, we’re still finding significant amounts of food waste appearing in residual waste across the UK. Jo Oliver from Rochdale Council (who I will be joining for our food waste workshop at LARAC), is currently working on increasing food waste capture rates in Rochdale, following a recent waste analysis which showed that 50% of their residents residual waste was still food waste.  And this is not unusual.

So what’s stopping us from recycling more food?

Firstly, we need everyone to have access to the service, in England less than   of households receive a regular food waste collection, which is why DEFRA’s proposed consistent collection legislation will be a welcome addition to the food waste agenda, encouraging and supporting those local authorities who aren’t able to offer the service currently.

Food-Waste-CaddyBut where food waste collections exist, participation rates are routinely the lowest of any container collection in the service. Food waste capture rates in general are lower than most, if not all, of other materials collected through local authority recycling services. Successful communications can boost capture rates, but as with any campaign, there will be those who slip back into old habits, or come across a barrier they simply cannot, or are not willing to overcome, such as running out of free liners or coming across too many mouldy tin cans in the back of the fridge, which are just too nasty to scrape out.


So how can we create long term behaviour change? Well that’s something I hope we can explore further at our workshop on 03 September at LARAC 2019.

Alternatively, you can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Sarah Ottaway at LARAC 2019

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