Business & Economy
Recycling boss urges hospitality sector to lead way in food waste management
April 23, 2021
A waste management firm boss has called on the hospitality sector to improve food waste practices amid tougher Government carbon targets.
Paul Palmer, director of Gap Organics, part of Gateshead recycling and logistics business GAP Group North East, says restaurants, pubs and other commercial enterprises must seek better ways of processing waste food as they emerge from the latest COVID-19 lockdown.
His call comes after the Government set out ambitious 2035 carbon emissions targets and the hospitality sector begins to re-open, with diners returning to beer gardens on April 12 and scheduled to return to restaurants from May 17.
Paul [pictured below] says food operators can play their part in reducing carbon emissions by recycling waste food in a way that benefits the environment as outlined under the delayed Environment Bill, and therefore becoming part of the circular economy.
The process enables waste to be diverted from EfW (Energy from Waste – controlled incineration) and landfill and creates renewable biogas for heat generation and fertiliser for local farming activities.
“As the economy opens up and we start to see a natural increase in pub and restaurant commercial activity, there will be an increase in food waste,” says Paul.
“This is where this type of recycling becomes incredibly important as it can be part of the bigger picture protecting the future health of the environment and the sustainability of the commercial retail food sector.
“We all want to see the economy recover, particularly in the hard-hit pub and restaurant sector, and this needs be done in a sustainable way so that the environment becomes a beneficiary of a healthy thriving economy.”
The Environment Bill is now being consulted on and is focused on changing the food collection process for commercial and household waste with the aim of improving the efficiency of recycling and ultimately helping to achieve carbon neutrality goals in the UK.
Gap Group North East brought the commercial anaerobic digestion (AD)* process to Tyne and Wear for the first time at its Wardley Biogas plant and is calling for more businesses and commercial organisations that produce food waste to be at the forefront of the circular economy.
Paul says: “Simply by recycling a single tonne of food waste, emissions of up to the equivalent of one tonne of carbon dioxide are avoided.
“Additionally, because of the way food waste is collected when not source segregated i.e., in black bags via general waste, these customers are often paying more for their overweight general waste charges than if they had dedicated food waste bins.
“So, on top of the significant environmental benefits, the process is more financially beneficial as well.
“The North East lags behind other areas, especially areas of London and the South East that have already successfully adopted residential food waste collection services.”
*Anaerobic Digestion is a sequence of processes by which micro-organisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen.
This transforms the waste food into biogas (methane and carbon dioxide), which can be used in a combined heat and power engine to generate renewable electricity, or upgraded to biomethane and injected directly into the National Grid.
The remaining liquid after the energy has been removed, known as digestate, is a nutrient rich fertiliser.