Food waste collections gather steam

Waste firm Sita is to start collecting food waste from London businesses alongside glass

Waste firm Sita is offering bars, restaurants and food retailers in London food waste collections alongside their existing glass ones. The service is part of a growing trend but wider roll-out is limited by the availability of treatment infrastructure.

Sita hopes to initially collect about 2,000 tonnes of waste a year in central and south London. It thinks this means it needs to sign up about 200 customers.

Some 514,000 tonnes per year of animal and food waste are collected separately in the city, according to LRS Consultancy, which worked with Sita to develop its new service. But more than half of this is landfilled. It thinks another 486,000t are treated as mixed waste.

Food and glass together

Sita has developed a collection vehicle that can take glass and food waste in separate compartments. It is collecting the two together as the same businesses tend to produce high volumes of both.

Participants will be given kitchen caddies lined with biodegradable sacks. The first major firm to have signed up is the Young’s brewery, which will test the collections at seven sites around Wimbledon.

Sita will initially send the waste to an in-vessel composting facility in Corby but has plans to develop its own anaerobic digestion (AD) plant in south London.

There are already several commercial food waste services. Viridor collects about 1,000t per year from premises in London and plans to expand the service as more AD facilities appear. Specialist food waste firm Juniper provides a London service, and Veolia is extending collections to 300 hotels and restaurants in the Whitbread group after a successful six-month trial. It also takes food waste from Asda for rendering and AD.

Biffa started commercial food waste collections three years ago and now offers the service across most of the country. It is developing a fleet of purpose-built vehicles. But one of the most comprehensive services is provided by the renderer Prosper De Mulder (PDM), which already had a national collection network for animal by-products. It extended the service to other food wastes about seven years ago and now collects more than one million tonnes per year from about 16,000 collection points.

PDM currently sends food waste to its rendering and biomass incineration plants. However, it is building a network of AD plants (ENDS Report 409, pp 18-19).

“It is challenging for the national waste management companies as they like to set up schemes they can offer to customers across the country,” said Sarah Jones, a senior consultant at LRS. “This is difficult with food waste as the reprocessing infrastructure doesn’t exist… those facilities that do exist mainly process household waste being collected by local authorities.”

LRS ran two food waste collection trials for the London Development Agency last year. One, in Islington, focused on retailers. The other collected from food makers on north London’s Park Royal industrial estate. It found food made up 15-40% of waste from the businesses involved but cannot release further details.