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Europe “must get ready for food waste collections”

Local authorities and municipalities across the European Union (EU), including in the UK, need to ‘get ready’ to introduce separate food waste collections, according to the heads of the global and UK food waste recycling associations.

Gästrike Ekogas’s recently commissioned food waste based AD plant complete with biogas upgrading to biomethane in Forsbacka, Gävle is a recent example in Sweden of how municipalities manage sourced separated waste diverting it from landfill while producing a renewable low-carbon fuel to run city buses.

The EU has published in its Official Journal its Circular Economy Package, which includes new targets of 65 percent recycling of municipal waste by 2035 and separate biowaste collections by December 2023. The package will be binding on EU Member States as of July 4, 2018, after which they will have two years to transcribe it into their own national laws.

Local authorities and municipalities across the European Union (EU), including in the UK, need to ‘get ready’ to introduce separate food waste collections, according to the heads of the global and UK food waste recycling associations ahead of the upcoming UK AD & World Biogas Expo 2018 that takes place next month in Birmingham.

It’s great to see that the new targets in the EU’s Circular Economy Package, particularly those for municipal waste and separate biowaste (food waste) collections, will soon enter into European law. Local authorities and municipalities across Europe now need to get ready to bring in food waste collections ahead of the legal deadline of December 2023, commented David Newman, President of the World Biogas Association (WBA).

Last month the WBA, launched its landmark report, “Global Food Waste Management: An Implementation Guide For Cities, written in partnership with the C40 Cities Food, Water & Waste Programme. The report offers guidance and case studies for global cities on food waste collection and recycling through anaerobic digestion (AD).

There are huge environmental, economic, and human health benefits to separately collecting inedible food waste and recycling it into valuable resources using biogas technologies – our latest report suggests that doing this on a global scale would have the same impact in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction as taking all cars in the EU off the road, commented David Newman, President of the World Biogas Association (WBA).

Food scrap collection at a lunch restaurant in Skellefteå, Sweden, where the city has separate collection and processing of organic waste to produce biomethane which is then used as fuel to run the city buses. The plastic bag used is bio-based.

Inedible food waste can be recycled through AD into biogas, which can be used to generate renewable heat and electricity and as a clean transport fuel, and digestate, which can be applied directly to land as a nutrient-rich biofertiliser.

We fully expect the UK to implement these targets as an existing member of the EU. ADBA has campaigned long and hard for separate food waste collections to be brought in across England to emulate the successful examples set by Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in separating and recycling inedible food waste through AD, so this is a huge moment for the circular economy in the UK. December 2023 is just over five years away, so local authorities in England need to start factoring the requirement for separate food waste collections into their plans and use contract renewals as an opportunity to introduce collections at the lowest possible cost and with maximum effectiveness, said Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the UK Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA).

Mix food waste with sewage?

With the UK currently one of the few countries not to mix food waste with wastewater treatment using AD, a panel comprising members of the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) – the UK body responsible for economic regulation of the privatised water and sewerage industry along with Heads of Biosolids/Bioresources from top water companies will debate the potential impact of co-digestion on availability of feedstock for existing plants – and whether outside companies will enter the sewage treatment market.

The “Tuvan” municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Skellefteå, Sweden has also a co-located dedicated food waste biogas plant. The shared facilities, all post-digestion, include biogas storage, upgrading, compression and flare.

In light of the new EU recycling targets, the higher tariff levels for the UK Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and a UK bioresources market estimated by Ofwat to be worth some GBP 780 million (≈ EUR 888 million) in 2016, the upcoming conference and expo in Birmingham is poised for significantly increased interest from those in the water/biosolids and food & drink industries.

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