When organic material such as food waste are put in a landfill, compacted and covered, it removes oxygen causing the waste to break down anaerobically. This releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The separation, and where possible recycling, of biodegradable waste is a simple effective strategy to reduce waste in landfills and lower the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change.
With the UK running out of landfills and with landfill costs set to rise to £80 per tonne by 2014/2015, an increase in waste management costs is expected. Anaerobic Digestion (AD) and industrial scale In-Vessel Composting (IVC) Plants are alternative treatment outlets for food waste, but they are few and far between and most of them are running at full capacity, with contracts going to Local Authorities, before private waste management companies are given any feeding space.
The UK Governments’ policy is informed by the ‘Waste Hierarchy’ – 5 steps for dealing with waste, ranked according to their environmental impact.
Waste prevention, which is the best option for the environment, is the highest priority, followed by preparing for re-use, recycling, other recovery like composting, creating energy and as a last resort disposal.