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Not disposing of waste problem

Author : Paul Tittle

23 December 2011

Paul Tittle

Paul Tittle warns that the proposed ‘Zero Waste’ laws could heap thousands of pounds of mandatory collection charges on catering establishments.

The Scottish devolved government issued a statement on its Zero Waste Policy laws on October 14th and among the worrying signs for caterers is that, starting from 2013, it proposes mandatory kerbside collection of all commercial food waste in Scotland. IMC estimates the costs of this could amount to around £1,500 per annum for an average restaurant and several times more for public service providers such as hospitals, schools and prisons.

In Wales, the policy process is at an earlier stage than Scotland, although indications are that separate kerbside collection of all food waste will also be promoted as the favoured policy line and the underlying danger is that this could also act as a blueprint shortly for England.

One of the key drivers for kerbside collection appears to be the need to guarantee feedstock for Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants that so far are yet to prove themselves as a financially viable solution. However, IMC would encourage Governments to take a broader approach to solving the issue of food waste management, as this ‘one size fits all’ approach simply won’t work and without taking action now the industry could be imposed very quickly with draconian and ill thought through legislation.

Under the terms of the Scottish Zero Waste Policy, commercial Food Waste Disposers (FWDs) will be banned in Scotland, although ironically there are no such moves to outlaw domestic FWDs. Among the arguments used to impose the ban is that FWDs increase the risk of blockages.

However, there have been several research studies conducted over the last twenty years in the US, Australia, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands have all found that the minute particles produced by FWDs are easily transported through sewers and neither settle nor contribute to the problems that may be caused by fats, oils and grease that are illegally poured down the drain. In fact, and as a result of such research, New York City rescinded its 18 year ban on domestic FWDs.

Significantly, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), at the request of the water industry's regulatory body, OFWAT, is currently looking at whether Waste Water Treatment Works could become potential sites for treating organic waste together with the sewage that they normally process and converting it into energy.

A growing group of campaigners is now coming together to raise greater awareness of these plans and to respond to these proposals. Included are industry associations, equipment suppliers, caterers such as hotels and restaurants as well as more high-profile supporters in the form of Imperial College London, who have conducted research on the topic and who themselves employ food waste processing equipment at their main campus, and renowned chef and restauranteur Anton Edelmann.

Aside from food waste collection costs that could run into the thousands of pounds, many caterers will be left with potentially redundant equipment. Even the House of Commons will be affected by the rules as they also employ FWDs; all at the cost to the taxpayer. This, IMC feels, is a huge missed opportunity as FWDs process the waste down into small particles that can be sent through the existing sewer system before reaching the Waste Water Treatment Works. This process not only eliminates collection, thereby saving fuel and reducing overall CO² emissions, but is also proven to improve the energy yield of the waste whilst freeing up other materials including paper, plastic, glass and metal that can also be recycled.

The Republic of Ireland has recently introduced a ban on FWDs and according to Adrian Cummins, Chief Executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, “We feel these laws have been pushed through as a way of more easily measuring Ireland’s food waste rather than adopting a much broader set of methods that would have been more pragmatic and far less costly”

Paul Tittle is Product Manager at IMC

If you have a view on this legislation, which could affect all catering establishments, please email them to, which will then be forwarded to IMC.

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