Ban food from landfill - study
The Government should ban all food leftovers from landfill by the end of the decade to boost technology which can turn it into energy, a report has said.
Councils should be given financial support to help them bring in separate food waste collections for households and businesses to ensure a steady supply of organic waste for the renewable power source.
The process known as anaerobic digestion could create enough biogas from green waste and purpose-grown crops to power more than 2.5 million UK homes by 2020, the study from think tank CentreForum suggested.
But barriers to increasing energy from anaerobic digestion need to be removed if the technology is to be scaled up significantly from current levels where it produces enough energy to power 300,000 homes, the report found. Currently, getting an anaerobic digestion scheme going was like "trying to win a cycle race with the brakes on", the report's authors warned.
Anaerobic digestion plants use micro-organisms to break down organic material without oxygen to create biogas that can be burned to produce renewable energy or injected directly into the gas grid. But the study said the schemes often struggle to secure long-term contracts to ensure supplies of the feedstock such as food waste.
The report said that only 13% of homes in England had separate food waste collections, compared to 82% of households in Wales.
A ban on food waste going to landfill would force local authorities to collect leftovers separately from households and businesses, which would provide the supplies needed for anaerobic digestion. Such a move is also necessary because the UK will run out of new landfill sites by 2020 and the UK has to meet EU rules to stop biodegradable waste going into landfill by the end of the decade.
Local authorities should be given financial support to invest in the more expensive vehicles needed to collect the separated food waste collections. Or they should be able to access funding, which could be raised from planned increases in the taxes put on sending rubbish to landfill, through schemes similar to the current £250 million government programme aimed at encouraging a return to weekly bin collections.
Report co-author Quentin Maxwell-Jackson said: "Anaerobic digestion technology has so many clear advantages over other waste treatment and energy generation options that it is very surprising it has not taken off in a big way yet in the UK. But that is because trying to get an anaerobic digestion scheme up and running at the moment is like trying to win a cycle race with the brakes on."
The independent report will be published this week at a conference held by the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, which funded the study.