You’re probably already familiar with recycling paper, plastic, glass and other household waste, but recycling food waste is an often overlooked strategy for lightening the load on the UK’s burgeoning landfills.
Of course, the best way to manage food waste is not to create it at all, but in reality, there will always be some level of food waste to deal with.
The restaurant and catering industry has no choice but to manage large amounts of food waste from its customers, including eggshells and banana peels that are hard to find a use for.
Food waste recycling is the answer for both commercial and domestic kitchens, but what exactly is involved and how can you save money with a better food waste recycling strategy?
Firstly, let’s take a closer look at exactly how food waste is recycled.
Food waste cannot be passed through the usual recycling screening line that sorts through typical domestic, commercial and construction waste.
Instead, food is broken down in a process called anaerobic digestion. It’s a bit like a speedier method of composting, whereby micro-organisms get to work on the food in an enclosed space.
Another method for recycling food waste is in-vessel composting, which mixes garden and food waste together for a slower composting process (around 1-3 months in total) at temperatures of up to 70°C, but some local authorities are reluctant to continue using it due to the expense.
The process of food waste recycling creates methane gas, which can be used to generate energy to power homes, industry and vehicles.
Not only does this create energy that might otherwise be generated by fossil fuels, but it also redirects the harmful methane gas from simply being released into the atmosphere.
Once the gas has been extracted, the residue of decomposed food leftover can be shipped off to farms as an effective fertilizer.
Suffolk residents throw away a whopping 52,000 tonnes of food a year.
Sadly, East Suffolk Council has stopped allowing residents to put food waste in with their organic brown/green containers (as of September 2021), as it’s cheaper to recycle the two waste types separately.
A spokesman explained to East Anglian Daily Times, “Processing food and garden waste together is an expensive process, and this change will not only cut down on the high cost of processing the fractionally small food waste part of this stream, but it will also align the area with the rest of the district where food waste is already being collected via the general waste bin.
“We are working with the government and other districts to find a way to collect food waste more efficiently.”
Food waste collected in East Suffolk will be screened and sent to the energy from waste plant at Great Blakenham.
Ipswich has made a similar change, asking residents to stop putting food waste in with their garden waste.
However, food waste can be put in the green kerbside bins and taken away by Cambridge City Council. The local authority also offers food waste collection for businesses, which it takes to a recycling plant and is even trialling a food-specific collection for residents.
In the private sector, Bio-Bean’s Cambridgeshire facility collects used coffee grounds to make into briquettes and pellets for burning in stoves, fireplaces and biomass boilers.
If you’re not sure about how your local authority is approaching food waste, use Recycle Now’s handy recycling locator to understand the schemes operating in your area.
According to Suffolk Recycles, the average family in East Anglia wastes as much as £730 a year on food that ends up in the bin.
You may think that’s not such a big deal and that food waste put in the general bin will decompose anyway, but that’s actually not the case at all.
When food is left to rot on its own, the methane it generates isn’t channelled into useful energy and is instead released into the atmosphere. The gas is 25 times more dangerous for the environment than carbon dioxide.
Sadly, the majority of food waste we generate is actually perfectly edible and could feed the homeless or be sent to food banks for those in need (of which there are plenty in these uncertain times).
Ultimately, ending food waste in the UK would have the same effect on CO2 levels (due to the energy used in its production, transportation and packaging) as removing 1 in 4 cars from the nation’s roads.
Unfortunately, no public recycling centre in Cambridgeshire or Suffolk accepts food waste from residents. Food waste that you’re not recycling at home has to go in the general waste bin to be screened by the council.
Similarly, SunSkips doesn’t accept food waste in a standard skip hire, but if you have a high volume of food waste to manage, get in touch to see how we can help.
Remember, food waste recycling is hugely beneficial for the environment, but preventing food waste in the first place makes life a lot easier.
Not only will you be doing your bit for the environment, but you stand to save hundreds of pounds a year with a few simple habit changes…
For more great tips on recycling food waste, visit the Love Food, Hate Waste website.
While SunSkips doesn’t accept food in our skips, we actually specialise in food recycling and can save you money on getting rid of your waste in an environmentally friendly manner. Give us a call on 01449 360 036 or 01223 976 496 to discover how we can help streamline your processes.