Saturday, 22 November 2014

European Week of Waste Reduction 2014

A blog post of two halves today, firstly with information about a European initiative to reduce food waste and then a look at how food waste is collected here in the Vale of Glamorgan (Wales).

The European Week of Waste Reduction (EWWR) starts today (22-30 Nov 2014). This initiative aims to raise awareness about sustainable resources and waste management. In particular, it encourages people, either through a group (e.g. public authority, NGO, business, educational establishment) or as individuals, to take actions to promote waste reduction. The annual EWWR was first launched in 2009 and has been co-funded by the European Commission’s LIFE+ Programme.

The EWWR’s Prevention Thematic Days 2014 focus on the issue of food waste and how to prevent it. Around one third of the food produced globally is lost or wasted, which makes no sense economically or ethically, and represents a massive loss of resources: land, water, energy and labour. Over 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU (2014 estimate), a figure that is expected to rise if active measures are not taken.

A number of EWWR food waste factsheets can be downloaded, which cover areas such as food donation campaigns, gleaning and eco-restaurants:

The Eco-Restaurant concept, for instance, aims to optimise a restaurant’s performance in all environmental aspects, including waste prevention, reducing energy and water consumption, and reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions. In terms of food waste, customers are encouraged to take left-over food away in paper ‘doggy bags’, customers should be offered tap water (in preference to bottled water), and more consideration should be given to different plate sizes on the menu.

The information for a Zero Waste Lunch aims to help you dramatically reduce the amount of food and packaging that ends up landfilled or incinerated. Avoiding unnecessary shopping and buying in bulk, making use of reusable bags and containers, reusing left-overs and composting food waste all contribute.

Food can be composted at home or via a local authority food waste collection scheme. Here in the Vale of Glamorgan, kitchen waste is collected weekly from the kerbside. Residents in the Vale can go along to the farm where it is processed near Cowbridge (Cowbridge Compost Ltd) and pick up some of the compost for free. We spread a load of it around when we established the Nightingale Community Garden in Dinas Powys.

The recent background paper on Waste Planning, part of the Vale of Glamorgan Local Development Plan 2011-2026, stated that the Vale handles 59,780 tonnes per annum (2012-13) of municipal solid waste, of which 5,459 tonnes per annum is food composting. It aims to increase the amount of food and garden waste being processed, and use some of it to generate bioenergy, through the creation of a new Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Treatment plant, in a joint venture with Cardiff Council.

In an announcement, unfortunately coinciding with the EWWR, the Vale of Glamorgan Council have said that it is to ration the biodegradable green bags they supply to households for food waste (Penarth Times, 20 Nov). This will make substantial annual savings, they say, because some people request unfeasibly large numbers of them. Although the local FOE group have attached the Council for this decision, it does make sense to issue a limited number of free bag rolls to households with the option of buying more.

The Vale’s kitchen waste system can seem a little overcomplicated. It involves a small caddy in the kitchen, into which biodegradable bags are inserted and a larger caddy to put roadside with the sealed bags in it. What I learnt recently is that you don’t really need the little biodegradable green bags at all, because you can just line the bigger caddy with newspaper and chuck everything straight in there. So don’t get too hung up on the little bags, just get as much kitchen waste recycled as possible!

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