Mar 7 2013

The Impacts of Food Waste Disposers

Low and Behold has been working for the Local Government Association since November 2011 as part of the Productivity Programme.

A food waste disposer under a kitchen sink

A food waste disposer under a kitchen sink

Waste management is one of the four highest spend areas for local government. Volumes of waste appear in recent years to be stabilising, but the unit cost of waste collection is increasing and a combination of EU targets, landfill tax increases and lack of capacity means that disposal costs are also escalating. Innovative methods of procurement and service delivery are required if local authorities are to achieve the required efficiency savings while improving service delivery, quality, standards and performance.”

Procurement, Capital and Shared Assets Productivity Workstream Big Wins Strategy, 2011

Innovation in service delivery is an important area of the Productivity Programme. An active programme of innovation in procurement is currently being run by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Waste Resources  Action Programme (WRAP) and Improvement and Efficiency South East (iESE).   This LGA pilot project, managed by Low and Behold Ltd, will focus on a specific area of service delivery to provide the evidence base for future decision making.

The pilot project will work directly with either, or all of, a local authority, housing association and water company to trial the use of food waste disposers (FWD) in residential kitchens. The purpose of the project is to test the technical, regulatory and legal barriers to using this technology for taking food waste out of the residual waste stream.

The LGA and Defra agree that the current advice that food waste should be collected separately at the kerbside is correct, and Defra is clear that FWD are further down the waste hierarchy than recycling or composting.  However there are a large number of properties, such as flats above shops and multi-occupancy buildings were this is not possible.  This is why this project is important; to investigate whether there are alternatives for removing the food waste from the residual waste stream.

The project aims to:

  • identify barriers from existing research,
  • convene a steering group of regulators and government departments to identify assumed technical, regulatory and legal barriers,
  • develop a pilot project to test these assumed barriers and provide the evidence base for future action,
  • bring together all the pertinent organisations with an interest in this area to ensure activity is coordinated; for example Defra, Environment Agency, Office of the Water Regulator (OFWAT), local authorities and water companies,
  • calculate potential cost-savings to local authorities from promoting FWD as a means of food waste disposal, and
  • calculate any cost transfers from the local authority onto householders or water companies.

The first stage of the project was completed at the end of 2012 and a report published by the LGA.  The report is available to download here.  Over 100 different types of literature and research from around the world were considered.  The earliest of these was published in 1947, and the reports came from all around the world.  Low and Behold believes this is the most comprehensive collation of the existing research to date on the impact of FWD and will be a valuable tool to anyone who wants to find out more.

If you have any questions about the report, would like an emailed copy or would like to talk to us about the pilot projects now underway, please contact Nicola Davies – nicola@lowandbehold.co.uk