Member press release – The best of both worlds: the case for keeping co-mingled collections while boosting food waste recycling rates
By Simon Christian, Business Development Director, Anaergia UK
The Environment Bill, which received royal assent in November 2021 following a government consultation, contains proposals to roll out separate, weekly household food waste collections across England by 2023. Plans include the introduction of statutory guidance on new minimum service standards for rubbish and recycling collections, and a minimum service standard of residual waste at least once a fortnight, alongside the weekly collection of organic waste .
While this news has been welcomed by the anaerobic digestion (AD) industry, local authorities that currently provide co-mingled food/garden waste collections are hoping this will not mandate a potentially expensive dismantling of their current successful infrastructure and vehicle fleets. Not least because a new technology from Anaergia, the OREXTM, offers a solution that delivers the best of both worlds. By extracting the food waste fraction from co-mingled waste streams, the OREX has the potential to boost food waste recycling rates while enabling existing co-mingled collections to remain in place. The clean food waste fraction can then be sent for processing at an AD plant, helping to contribute towards to the country’s GHG reduction and renewable energy generation ambitions…
Stalled recycling rates
It is clear that England’s current fragmented household waste collection system needs overhauling, not only to provide consistency for residents but also to halt the downturn in recycling rates. England has not met the government target to recycle 50% of waste from households by 2020; in fact, in 2020, the ‘waste from households’ recycling rate was 44.0%, down from 45.5% in 2019. And while separately collected food waste rose by 11.0% in 2020, it remained only a small proportion of total ‘waste from households’, at just 2.2% .
This is largely because, according to 2018/19 figures from WRAP, almost half of England’s 326 local authorities (LAs) – 160 councils – do not provide any food waste collections. A total of 115 councils provide a separate food waste collection service, sending this valuable organic resource to AD plants where it is used to produce biogas and biofertiliser. A further 38 provide co-mingled food/garden waste collections, with both fractions going to in-vessel composting (IVC), while 13 councils offer a mixture of the two systems .
Separating food waste from co-mingled streams
One solution that enables councils to fulfil separate food waste collection obligations without replacing existing co-mingled vehicle and collection infrastructure is Anaergia’s OREX technology. A robust and efficient extrusion press, it reliably separates solid wastes into wet organic and dry fractions. For co-mingled waste streams, it processes the dry fraction to recover up to 90% of putrescible, wet organics (ie food waste), optimising the amount which can then be fed to an AD plant.
The OREX’s ability to separate food waste from the co-mingled waste stream in a way that makes it suitable for processing via wet AD is crucial because the Food and Drink Waste Hierarchy has identified AD as the optimal technology for the recycling of all inedible food waste. The hierarchy is used to inform councils’ decisions on the technologies they should use to process any collected food waste. By employing the OREX, councils which offer co-mingled collections can be confident that they are adhering to BAT (best available technology) guidance.
Saving costs and carbon
The OREX can also help LAs overcome additional environmental, financial and technological challenges posed by the potential removal of co-mingled collections as follows:
- By allowing co-mingled collections to remain in place, only one set of vehicles would be required to travel to a household, reducing emissions and capital/running costs compared with the two vehicle sets required for separate food and garden waste collections.
- Existing co-mingled vehicle and collection infrastructure would not need to be replaced, keeping down costs further.
- Once the wet organic fraction has been extracted from the co-mingled waste stream, the organic loading rate on the IVC is reduced, improving composting performance.
A sensible solution
As local authorities and the waste industry alike await government guidance relating to the Environment Bill, there is hope that common sense will prevail. Instead of removing existing co-mingled collections, enabling them to remain in place with the support of efficient technological solutions such as the OREX can deliver the best of both worlds: improved food waste recycling rates without the need to dismantle successful collection systems.
To find out how the OREX could extract 90% of food waste from your co-mingled waste stream, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1480 477608.
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Notes to Editors
Anaergia builds, refurbishes, operates and maintains anaerobic digestion plants and organic treatment facilities across the UK, turning waste into energy, water and fertiliser. With a global portfolio of 1,700+ reference sites and 13 successful biogas installations in the UK, the company’s experienced team of builders, designers, consultants, engineers and service technicians can offer advice and support for every waste stream – from food and agricultural to co-mingled and MSW. As well as new builds, Anaergia also specialises in bringing underperforming AD plants back into profit, providing sustainable solutions for every waste challenge. www.anaergia.com
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