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Managing food waste in the UK

Food waste in the UK has been a matter of serious social, environmental, and economic concern in the recent past. A single sandwich factory throws away 13,000 slices of sandwich crusts. This is according to research conducted by Feeding the 5K organization. According to a sustainability report by Tesco, a food retailer company in the UK, 28,500 tons of food waste was generated in 2013 within the last six months. Also, 47% of the bakery is wasted. With reference to GHG emissions, DEFRA approximated that food waste contributes to 20 Mt of carbon dioxide per year equal to 3% of the total yearly GHG emission.

Around the world, 1.2-2 billion tons of food produced is discarded before reaching the stomach of a human being. Global food waste accounts for 3.3 Bt carbon dioxide per year making it the third-largest carbon emitter after the USA and China if it is considered a country.

The global population is expected to rise to 9.5 billion by the year 2075 and food demand is expected to grow by 70% by the year 2050. This makes food waste a globally worrying issue that should be addressed via sustainable initiatives. Food waste packaging is mainly plastic and paper, cardboard collection services in London like Kwiksweep, recycling over 10 tonnes year.

Clearabee, a London-based rubbish removal company adheres to the European Landfill Directive by planting over 19000trees to reduce the actual amount of carbon we produce. Over 95% of our rubbish clearance is diverted from landfills and taken to a local transfer station. This includes food waste and other reusable and recyclable materials.

Directives put in place to battle food waste.

Various policies have been implemented to tackle this issue. The European Landfill Directive has set goals to reduce the organic waste that is disposed of in landfills in 2020 to 35% as compared to waste disposed of in 1995. The European Parliament has applied measures to half the food waste by the year 2025 and also the year 2014 has been designated as” the European year Against Food Waste”.

The Save Food Initiative has been launched by the United Nations Environment Programme in conjunction with FAO in conformity with the IMechE’s report of 2013 focused on reducing global food waste.

In 2008, WRAP in the UK expanded its organic waste initiative which was geared towards establishing the most environmentally sustainable and cost-effective way of preventing the disposal of food waste into landfills.

Other than government policies, other voluntary schemes have been adopted by local authorities like the Nottingham Declaration whose main focus is to reduce local carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by the year 2050.

Sustainable Food Waste Management

Thanks to engineering there are various technologies in place to deal with food waste. Studies have been conducted to assess the socio-economic and environmental impact of food waste management choices. The two preferable options include anaerobic composting and digestion.

In-Vessel Composting (IVC) is a method of treating food waste aerobically and turning it into fertilizer. It is a sustainable method that helps reduce the amount of waste dumped in landfills, therefore, complying with the EU’s regulations.

It is an environmentally friendly option as compared to other methods like incarceration and landfill. Less than 0.06% of greenhouse gas is produced through this method. However, the overall environmental outcome is poor due to the GHG produced upon its energy-intensive collection processes.

Anaerobic Digestion technology has had a growing market demand in the past years. This technology involves the use of microorganisms to break down food to produce biogas that can be used for Combined Heat and Power (CHP) the digest can be used for fertilizer in the farm. It is the best option for food waste management. The UK government has provided support for AD‘s expansion across the country.

Anaerobic Digestion is a renewable source of technology and also a method used to treat food waste. The UK will be supplying 15% of its renewable sources of energy by 2020. If this technology is adopted nationally it has the potential of generating 35000 jobs and boosting the UK’s economy.

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