SOME COMPANIES are getting a raw deal from collection contracts which offer little incentive to prevent food from ending up in landfill.
The profit sector is getting a much better deal on its waste contracts than the cost sector, according to an extensive new report by the food waste recycler ReFood and the entrepreneurial charity BioRegional. This is because of the general waste collection model that operates on a “one-price-fits-all” policy – in other words companies pay per bin rather than by weight.
“Companies that have heavier bins are subsidised by ones that have lighter bins,” explains Dean Pearce, ReFood’s regional commercial manager. “Waste collectors are then able to make a profit by having a mix of light and heavy bins.”
This model has a number of flaws, not least with some companies getting a raw deal while others get a brilliant one, as the graphic on the right illustrates. Pearce says: “The subsidised cost of mixed waste within a general waste collection, together with the comparable weight of food waste, leaves little incentive to separate and recycle the waste once it has been mixed. It is then harder to determine how much food waste is being produced and therefore it becomes difficult to reduce it.”
This also raises question marks over the landfill tax, which was originally introduced to encourage recycling by making disposal to landfill more expensive than recycling. But if heavy bins can be collected for less than the cost of landfill tax, the economic benefit of recycling is lost.
So what needs to change?
Waste policy for a start. The report – “Vision 2020: UK Roadmap to Zero Food Waste to Landfill” – highlights that food waste is being collected, but as part of general waste rather than separately. ReFood therefore wants a clear timetable for the banning of food waste from landfill and compulsory separate collections of food waste from businesses (as is the case in Scotland from this month) and homes.
Philip Simpson is the company’s commercial director. He says if Defra committed to this it would “be like winning the lottery”, adding: “We have that in Scotland and it’s put us in a totally different market position up there. We’re tired of being stonewalled by Defra”.
The chance of such a dramatic policy shift is slim – Defra recently announced that it will be stepping back its policy work on waste this year. It may be left to businesses, says Pearce: “The catering and hospitality sector needs to work with waste companies and local authorities to find ways to universally adopt separate food waste collections and stop the rot.”