One of the major issues with food consumption, both in the UK and throughout the developed world, is the amount of food that is thrown away. Around a third of the food purchased in the UK is thrown away, of which an estimated 50% could have been consumed, therefore any work that is being done to reduce this is important.
The Guardian today published an article regarding a new initiative being implemented in London to re-direct 300’000 tonnes of food waste away from landfills and towards vulnerable people within the city, certainly a worth cause. Here is the article:
London’s recycling board has allocated cash to help divert 300,000 tonnes of edible food from costly landfill sites each year as part of a drive to reduce waste in the capital.
A £362,000 grant from the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) will ensure that the equivalent of 800,000 meals is distributed to homeless and other vulnerable groups of Londoners rather than ending up in the bin.
The funding was announced as the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, hosts a three-day event involving delegates from cities around the world who have gathered to discuss how to minimise rubbish, boost recycling and look at the technologies for managing waste.
The FareShare Community Food Network provides a paid-for collection service to the food and drink industry to distribute food that no longer has a commercial value but is fit for purpose to local community groups. The funding will pay for a new depot in north-west London.
With an estimated 1.4m tonnes of food waste produced each year in the capital – 40% of which ends up dumped in landfill sites – the initiative is part of a wider effort to reduce waste in London as close to source as possible, according to James Cleverly, a Tory member of the London assembly who was previously Johnson’s youth ambassador, and was appointed chair of the board after the mayor decided to stand aside.
He said the pan-London board’s short-term plan to reduce waste is coupled with a longer term aim to set up the infrastructure necessary for mass waste recycling in the capital to avoid the “painful transition” when councils can no longer afford to send waste to landfill.
Working in conjunction with London boroughs, the board has a budget of £84m to spend by 2012 to improve waste management in the capital through increased recycling, minimising waste generation and finding more environmentally friendly ways to process rubbish.
The board also has a role to play in delivering the mayor’s strategy on waste and recycling – currently out for consultation – which makes waste reduction aims explicit for the first time. The draft strategy also highlights measures to improve recycling rates, as figures show the capital lags behind both the rest of the UK and other international cities, with wide variations between boroughs across the capital.
With landfill rates set to increase from current associated costs of around £245m to £307m by 2013, Johnson wrote to London borough leaders earlier this year to press home the need to redouble their efforts in recycling to avoid extra pressure on council tax bills in the future.
The mayor wants the capital to be recycling at least 45% of its municipal waste (which includes street litter, grass cuttings and some waste from small businesses as well as household waste) by 2015, rising to 60% by 2031, sending “zero municipal waste” directly to landfill by 2025, with any residue from other waste processing being banned from landfill by 2031.
Cleverly said practical factors such as population density and high-rise flats were partly to blame for poor recycling rates in the capital. But he said there was a need for politicians to have the “political will” and be “gutsy” enough to confront a few bad headlines as councils seek to influence people’s rubbish habits by, for example, reducing bin collections for general waste.
But he admitted that the push to improve recycling among residents needed to be coupled with moves to establish the facilities needed to turn waste into new sources of energy or into recycled products.
“I’m a Tory, we don’t like waste,” joked Cleverly when asked how to reduce landfill costs. “When waste reduction becomes a totally embedded habit we have to think what we do with the waste that will inevitably arise. At the moment we don’t have the infrastructure to deal with waste as efficiently as we could do – and that’s both financial efficiency and ecological efficiency so we do need to work on that.”
Cleverly said landfill was quickly becoming a very expensive option, but without intervention there would be a long and financially painful gap until the market provides an alternative through large-scale recycling plants.
“People will build facilities when they feel they can make money, which is when the cost of landfill is so high. What we need to do – particularly at the moment with the economic situation – is make sure that the facilities are online and are ready to rock and roll sooner rather than later.”
The government is meanwhile proposing a national ban on sending a list of common items to landfill: paper and card; food; textiles; metals; wood; garden waste; glass; plastics; and electrical and electronic equipment which together represent 84% of waste collected, according to the government’s waste advisers, Wrap.
Last week, Wrap published its biggest-ever study of what should be done with waste. It found that in more than 80% of cases recycling was the best option, followed by incineration, and composting and anaerobic digestion.