Food waste ‘tsar’ Ben Elliott will name and shame poor performing councils and businesses to try to change public attitudes to discarded food.
elliot ben for web
This is planned for national food waste week from 2-9 November, though Mr Elliott told LGC he also intended to highlight good practice by councils and lessons learned from campaigns.
Mr Elliott, who was given the role by environment secretary Michael Gove last winter, runs luxury services company Quintessentially but said he became involved in food waste after volunteering with a friend’s charity.
He said: “The difficulty I see is budgets and I totally get that councils have problems there.
“The problem is that 70% of the 10.2m tonnes of food we throw away every year is from households, and food waste is not going down.
“I can go after big businesses but 70% is in households and you only get at that by having food waste collections [by all councils] and changing habits.”
Mr Elliott said some councils provided a good service but others “just do not see it as a priority, but this is becoming a greater issue of public concern because of the link between climate change and food waste - its equivalent to one third of car emissions. I think the government will have to get more draconian about it”.
The government’s waste and resources strategy proposes mandatory weekly separate food waste collections but currently only around half of councils offer any form of food waste collection.
Although wasted food still in an edible condition can be given to charities and food banks, the bulk of the rest goes to anaerobic digestion (AD) and that industry will need more capacity to cope with any increase in food collected by councils.
AD is a process by which food waste is treated in an oxygen-free tank to produce energy and fertiliser.
A spokeswoman for the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association said: “There is some capacity within existing AD food waste plants to absorb the increase of food waste feedstock that we are expecting to see as a result of food waste consistency.
“More AD capacity will be required to take on all the new food waste expected. In terms of securing investment to back the increase in capacity, policy certainty is key.”
The industry though has no certainly that one of its main sources of funding, the renewable heat incentive programme which pays for energy generated through anaerobic digestion, will continue beyond 2021.
Councils in May called on the government to guarantee long-term funding for mandatory food waste collections proposed in its waste strategy.
The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee said such a scheme could only work if there is “long-term guaranteed funding to cover any additional cost burdens” to ensure funding is not diverted from other essential services.