It seems incredible but is estimated that each year in the UK about a third of all the food purchased is thrown away and that at least half of the discarded food was fit to be eaten at the time it was discarded. Over the
Christmas and the New Year period alone it is said that 230,000 tonnes of festive food is wasted. The cost of this wasted food for an average UK household is calculated at about £325 per annum with costing about £20,000 in a lifetime.
Much of this is still sent to landfill via the normal “black bag/bin” council doorstep collection. This is at a time where there is justified concern about climate change and greenhouse gases. While the best
way to reduce landfill related methane resulting from food waste is to waste less food (and money) diverting food waste from landfill must play a key role and it is proposed to eventually have waste food collected and treated by anaerobic digestion Follow
link to Anaerobic Composting
The amount of food waste separately collected for recycling and composting more than tripled in under
a year from 36,000 tonnes in 2008/09 to over 110,000 in April-December 2009. (A study of the UK organics recycling industry - Wrap 2011).
Diversion of food waste from disposal is now a higher priority for local authorities in the UK. The percentage
of local authorities in the UK providing a food waste collection service to householders had increased to 47% by May 2011. In addition many were also are offering food waste collection from small businesses and schools.
2013 WRAP published new estimates on how much food and drink is disposed annually from UK households. This showed progress in that that the amount of food and
drink thrown away that could have been eaten had fallen by 21% between 2007 and 2012. The total amount of food and drink waste reduced by 19% over this time period, from 320 kg to 260 kg per household per year
Over 4 million tonnes of the 5-6
million tonnes food waste produced each year was collected by councils while in the region of 0.8 million tonnes was home composted or fed to animals
This shows good progress but as a composter I would argue that it is better
to treat the food waste on the site where it is produced rather than collect it in a lorry and use “waste-miles” to transfer it to a central treatment site.The use of an on-site In Vessel Composter (IVC) enables waste producers, be they households
or organisations, to adopt a 100% sustainable approach to the disposal of their food waste ensuring its diversion from environmentally unfriendly landfill or incineration plants.
A number of local councils concerned at the
amount of food waste being produced by residents and sent to landfill or incineration have introduced educational initiatives to reduce such waste at source e.g. Love Food - Hate Waste, and/or by collecting the waste separately for processing by
anaerobic digestion (which still involves road transport often over considerable distances) or by providing or subsidising the purchase of, the means to treat the waste at home e.g. by home composters e.g. and food digesters.
I believe that in addition to home the composting of food waste we should be encouraging schools, colleges, pubs, nursing homes, small and medium businesses to compost the food waste from their offices and canteens on site. In addition Councils could
take a lead by composting the food and other organic waste produced in their offices on site and using the compost produced to maintain the fertility of the grounds in which the offices are situated.
Our Composting Demonstration
site can provide information and workshops on small scale food composting for cafes, residential homes etc.
Factors that may influence organisations and businesses to start composting their food waste including
— The desire to reduce their carbon footprint and associated environmental concerns together with the desire for favourable environmental audits
- Rising trade waste collection charges.
- Legislation outlawing biodegradable waste from landfill,
- The rising cost of fuel and food,
- The wish to reduce the smell and inconvenience associated with storing waste food on site for collection
potential to save money by creating compost
As mentioned in the introduction the home composting of food waste has in the past presented problems for the composter as the waste tends to be dense, wet and is prone
to become very smelly. If composted in a conventional heap or plastic bin it also attracts flies and rodents.
However there are now a number of modern bins on the market that are designed for the home composting of
cooked food waste, a mixture of food and garden waste or food waste with wood chip, wood pellets or sawdust. These include hot composting systems such as the Hotbin and Green Johanna and a number of tumbler bins such as the Jora. In addition a Bokashi
bin provides an indoor method of fermenting cooked food waste in a sealed container so that it can be added to a compost bin, or dug into the garden, without the problems of smell and rodents infestation associated with the traditional composting of such items.
There are an increasing number of on-site composting options for businesses capable to deal with waste from organisations ranging in size from a small office to organisations with a full catering facility that produce significant
quantities of food waste e.g. schools, hotels, residential and nursing homes, colleges and universities. Food waste can be converted into high quality compost in around 6-8 weeks using a modern composter. The smaller composters are operated in the same way
as the normal compost bin with material being added until the container is filled, the compost removed when ready. Composters of this type include the Green Johanna, Hotbin, Biolan, Jora and Scotspin. The larger more expensive food composting systems, such
as the Ridan, Big Hanna, Jora 5100 and Rocket produce compost on a “Continuous Throughput System” where materials are added daily at one end of the composter and finished compost removed at the other end.
In-Vessel Compositing systems enable waste producers to adopt a 100% sustainable approach to the disposal of their food waste ensuring its diversion from environmentally unfriendly landfill or incineration plants. In larger organisations these systems can
be used following maceration and dewatering. For medium and smaller organisations composters such as the Jora, Ridan, Hanna or Rocket provide an effective option while where a limited quantity of organic waste is produced and a as an alternative to one of
the smaller models in the previously mentioned ranges one or more composters such as would be used in a larger household offer an cost effective alternative e.g. Hot bin or Jora.
Such bins may be used in conjunction with
a maturation container to store the compost while it matures so as to increase the through put of the composting vessel.
Domestic composting systems normally operate best when located on grass or soil. The food waste composting
systems designed for businesses, covered in the main part of this review, can be located in the open on tarmac or other hard surface and do not require any services. Larger systems may need to be kept under cover and may require an electrical supply. When
considering the choice of equipment the key consideration may be the volume of waste produced but the ease of operation, harvesting, running costs and depreciation should also be considered.
The key to successful composting at work or college is having one or two designated and dedicated composters on the staff or a stable club of enthusiastic students. It is important that the process is overseen and
monitored regularly by the same people as variations in the mix or the operation of the equipment can have an effect on the output.
Composting food waste is not a clean catering process, so it is usually best
handled by staff other than the catering staff such as gardeners, grounds or premises staff or a keen volunteer from the administrative staff rather than the on-site catering staff as they are employees who need to keep very clean. If catering staff
are used it is suggested that the composting role is the last activity of the day. Where catering staff are employed they do need to be actively involved in the overall project as they have a key role to play in the reduction of food waste by potion control
and educating their customers.