In Wales about a third of the food we buy is sent to landfill and about a quarter of this is food which has simply gone out of date.
The UK as a whole throws away 808,000 tonnes of food past its edible date. That's about £2.2 billion in food a year. Most of this food is bought in promotions ~ "Buy One, Get One Free" ~ but never used such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only is that making a big hole in your pocket it is also filling a big hole in the ground at the rubbish tip. The long term effect is that when the food is buried in a landfill site it gives off a greenhouse gas called methane which is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Instead of putting food waste into the rubbish bin we can convert it to something useful. We can compost a large amount of the fruit, vegetables and garden waste at home, and Ceredigion and Powys County Councils encourage residents to do just that. Visit their websites to find out more.
The Councils have recognized that some food waste, such as cooked waste including meat isn’t suitable for home composting, and not everyone is able to compost at home. For these reasons the two authorities came together to find a food waste treatment solution.
Food waste that contains meat products, such as that from most householders’ kitchens has to be treated by methods that comply with the Animal By-Products Regulations.
These regulations ensure that any harmful bacteria in the waste are killed off during the treatment process, making the products safe to be returned to the land.
There are two main types of methods that are suitable for treating food waste that might include meat:
1. In-vessel composting
Composting is an age old natural process in which micro-organisms breakdown organic matter and converts it into a biologically stabilized residue.
The process is normally aerobic (it needs oxygen) and produces two things:
- Carbon Dioxide
- A stable organic material suitable for use as a soil conditioner and/or slow release fertilizer, known as compost
Although composting will occur naturally without our help, the “In Vessel Composting” (IVC) process is designed to make composting efficient and controllable by increasing the amount of air and reducing the time it takes to break down the waste.
2. Anaerobic Digestion (AD)
Anaerobic means in the absence of oxygen, the basis of AD are micro-organisms that break down of waste in a controlled (non -oxygen) environment.
Anaerobic Digestion produces two things:
- Biogas, a gas (mainly methane) which is can be used to generate heat and power
- Digestate – either in a solid or liquid form is nutrient rich and can be used as a soil improver/fertilizer, the solid form is generally a good quality product, high in moisture, rich in nutrients but very different from compost.
- Both of the processes above include a pasteurization stage which is designed to make sure that any harmful bacteria in the food waste are destroyed.
- Both composting and Anaerobic Digestion recycle food waste by returning nutrients to the soil.
- Applying compost or digestate to land reduces the need for oil-derived artificial fertilizers
- Anaerobic Digestion converts the gases produced by the breakdown of the food into renewable energy, thus reducing the need for non-renewable energy sources. For this reason Anaerobic Digestion is considered to be better for the environment than composting.
Watch a film about Anaerobic Digestion:
Watch an animation about Anaerobic Digestion hyperlink to:
More information about waste treatment technologies can be found on the Waste Awareness Wales website
Food Waste Collection
Ceredigion started to collect food waste separately from all of its residents in October 2010. The scheme is also available to commercial premises and schools in the county that have a contract with the County Council. For more information about how to take part, visit the Council’s website:
- Ceredigion County Council
- Powys is currently introducing a new collection of food waste to properties in the county. Visit Powys County Council for more information.
Love Food Hate Waste
To find out how you can reduce food waste, visit the Love Food Hate Waste campaign website:
Or download the 'Love Food Hate Waste' mobile phone app here:
To download the iphone version:
To download the android version: