As landfills grow and grow to monstrous proportions, local authorities in the UK are to tell all households to keep separate bins for food scraps, hoping to recycle. Already the measure is in practice in many regions.
Food waste accounts for about a fifth of the waste currently sent to landfill, creating thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases. Around a third of the food bought in the UK is thrown away, even though most of it could have been eaten.
AdvertisementHouseholders will now be required to keep a brown plastic "caddy" to put food scraps in, which is collected weekly. It is predicted the average household will dispose of around 2kg of food waste each week.
Some 113 councils are now collecting food waste separately out of 434 councils in the UK that deal with rubbish disposal, according to the government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
Fifty-nine collect food waste in separate containers and a further 54 collect food waste mixed in with garden waste. As well as providing "caddies", councils have to adapt dust carts so they can carry perishable waste separately, and invest in composting works to dispose of the food. Now the rest of the country is to follow suit.
But critics are skeptical of the effectiveness of the bins. The move would only become an excuse to end weekly bin collections once and for all, they suspect.
Some residents taking part in the schemes have complained about unpleasant odours from food waste, which they say attracts flies and other pests.
The food scrap bin scheme means the vast majority of waste is likely only to be collected once a fortnight. Hence some of the most unpleasant waste items, including dirty nappies, would therefore go two weeks without being collected.
Indeed half of the local authorities in the UK are now collecting black bag rubbish and recyclable rubbish on alternate weeks. However this has proved extremely unpopular with households concerned about perishables attracting rats, flies and even disease. It has also been blamed for an increase in fly-tipping.
In some areas, householders will now have six different bins - for food scraps, green waste, paper, glass, plastic and general waste - which opponents say is too confusing, particularly for the elderly.
The Local Government Association (LGA) called for more funds to be made available for rolling out the scheme, while consumers expressed concern council tax payers would be left footing the bill.
A spokesman said: "Many councils are already collecting food waste separately and are keen to expand these services, but this is not something that comes without a price tag. Specialist equipment is required to collect and dispose of it, which can be very expensive."
Mark Wallace, campaign director at the Taxpayer's Alliance, added: "With council tax bills putting such a heavy burden on families already suffering from the recession, councils must be extremely careful about the potential cost of this scheme.
"There are much more affordable alternatives which include encouraging home composting."
Eric Pickles, the Tory local government spokesman, said another bin tax would not help the environment.
"Food waste collections have a role to play in increasing recycling, but the sheer proliferation of different boxes collected at different times in different ways by councils makes it very confusing for households," he said.
"The Government should be making it easier for families to go green and increase recycling by working with households, not punishing them with heavy-handed bin taxes, bin cuts and bin fines."
The LGA said it was up to individual councils to decide how to collect waste how to deal with householders who refuse to separate out food scraps, though it said there were no plans yet to fine people who opt out. Many councils that had brought in separate food collections only used the system in areas where it was practical, it added, with tower blocks exempt from the scheme in some areas.
The LGA insisted however, that the scheme was "popular" as well as being a vital way of meeting EU requirements on reducing landfill.
Phillip Ward, of WRAP, added: "Collecting food waste separately is a very effective way of reducing the amount that gets sent to landfill and the environmental damage this causes."
He confirmed that more councils are planning on introducing food waste collections and that it is hoped most households will eventually dispose of food scraps separately.