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Give Communities the Power to Deal with their Own Food Waste

2 Comments 18th January 2015

Allow communities to deal with their own food waste by removing the unnecessarily strict interpretation of the Animal By Products Regulations (ABPR) and increasing the limits of food waste which can be composted under a T23 anaerobic composting exemption.

Any community group which wishes to compost their own food waste must comply with the very strict time, temperature and particle size requirements set out in the Animal By Product Regulations. These regulations came into force in aftermath of Foot and Mouth and other crises to regulate collection, transport, storage, handling, processing and use of animal by products in EU Member States but their application in the UK has been far too restrictive.

Under the ABPR all catering waste must be composted in line with the ABPR. Catering Waste is defined  as ‘all waste food including used cooking oil originating in restaurants, catering facilities and kitchens, including central kitchens and household kitchens’ this includes waste from vegetarian kitchens, and no distinction is made for purely vegetable waste (DEFRA website). In practice this means that even a tea bag which may have theoretically touched some milk cannot be composted by community groups unless they can meet the strict guidelines set out in the ABPR.  This means that community groups wishing to compost their carrot peelings must be able to afford expensive in-vessel composting systems and the associated testing and recording.

 Those community groups which do manage to meet the requirements of the ABPR are then only allowed 10 tonnes of food waste on site at anyone time under a free exemption. As the quantities most community groups are processing are less than is financially sustainable for PAS100 accreditation the whole of the material – finished compost of excellent quality included is classed legally as food waste and thus limited to 10 tonnes on site at anyone time. Thus the free exemption treats normal kitchen waste in the same way as animal tissue waste (including blood and carcasses!). 

If groups cannot meet  these limits they must apply for a Standard Permit or Bespoke Permit. These permits were developed with large scale commercial composters in mind and cost thousands of pounds. As most community groups operate on tiny budgets, relying on the good will of volunteers these costs simply cannot be meet. 

Why does this matter?

8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year (Love Food Hate Waste Website), much of it ending up in land fill were it contributes to global warming. Under the EU Landfill Directive the UK must meet targets for the reduction of biodegradable municipal waste sent for landfill- at the minute the only way to do this is by transporting food waste long distances to large centralised commercial composting and anaerobic digestion facilities or by incineration.

Food waste can be processed on a local, small scale using relatively simple technology and transformed into quality compost which can in turn be used by the local community for growing food and plants on their gardens and allotments.

By reducing the burden of restrictive food waste legislation on small scale community composters communities will be given the power to deal with their own waste while reducing the amount of waste going to landfill or incineration, preserving peatland natural habitats (by producing a sustainable alterative to peat-based compost) and providing training, employment and volunteering opportunities.

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2 Responses to Give Communities the Power to Deal with their Own Food Waste

  1. Darius Namdaran says:

    This is a very good idea. We really need to empower the small to medium business sector in waste food management instead of it being colonised and dominated by big business like so many other sectors. Lets learn from our mistakes.

  2. G.Squire. says:

    We buy only the food that we need and the only food waste is fruit & veg peelings and tea bags that go on the compost heap and a few scraps that go on the bird table and bones picked clean by the birds that go in the bin. Why then do some people have so much food waste? Are they lured by often misleading quantity discounts? Do they have money to waste? I never recall our family having this food waste so what are some other people up to?

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