Tackling food waste
Author: Cllr Julia Neden-Watts, Chair of the Environment, Sustainability, Culture and Sport Committee
Date: 23 September 2020
Recent compositional analysis of black bag rubbish in Richmond upon Thames suggested that up to 30% of general waste in kerbside collections is food waste. Even more startlingly, around half of that food is still in its packaging – which means containers are also being chucked away, not recycled.
Whether animal or vegetable, this is a distressing level of food waste originating from land that should be used productively to feed people – not the incinerator! To tackle food waste, we need to acknowledge its existence, and the Council is developing plans to engage positively with residents about this in coming weeks.
Some food waste is inevitable, however, and this is where our food waste collection service comes in. We have emphasised to our waste & recycling contractor that food waste that’s been carefully separated by our residents needs to be properly collected. The food waste goes to an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant in South London, and the resulting methane is captured. Most of it goes on to the national gas grid, but some is used as compressed natural gas in specialised collection vehicles, and a small amount is used to generate electricity that powers the plant itself. A further useful product is “digestate” or farmland fertiliser.
Some properties in the borough (e.g. blocks of flats) are without a food waste collection service – but we are working with our waste disposal authority (West London Waste) to extend the service, include more properties, and encourage more participants.
Meanwhile, The Real Junk Food Project at the Community Café in East Twickenham is tackling food waste in a different but very positive way, turning donations of unsold food into delicious soups, hot lunches and desserts for the local community on a “pay as you feel” basis. Café patrons can also take home surplus bread to make toast for hungry family members or breadcrumbs to pop in the freezer. The Junk Food team have implemented social distancing on site and continue their mission to “feed bellies not bins”.
Another novel way to save surplus food from going to waste in the community is to use food-sharing apps to alert others to your excess stocks.
Helpful apps for tracking food waste:
Terracycle is a free service helping to recycle typically hard-to-recycle waste.
Up to: Comment Spot 2020
Updated: 24 March 2021