Agenda item

Food Waste & Environment Act 2021 requirements update report

Report by the Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.


34.1     The Waste Team Manager introduced the report and outlined that the Government has provided additional information to councils to clarify the requirements for recycling services as part of the Environment Act. The Act requires all Waste Collection Authorities (WCAs - which are the District and Borough councils in East Sussex) to provide weekly food waste collections separate from other waste by March 2026.


34.2     The report provides further information on communal waste collection facilities and on funding arrangements. A total of £4.3 million in funding has been allocated to the WCAs in East Sussex (excluding Lewes District Council (LDC) who already have a food waste collection service) for capital expenditure on collection vehicles and food waste bins. There may also be some ongoing revenue support for collection authorities. East Sussex County Council (ESCC) as the Waste Disposal Authority will not receive any additional funding from the Government.


34.3     The impact on ESCC of having to dispose of more food waste as a result of the introduction of mandatory food waste collections will mean that some work will need to be carried out on the existing in vessel composting (IVC) facilities at the Woodlands facility in Whitesmith. There will also need to be some modifications to waste transfer stations and vehicles used to transport the waste. The Waste Team is working with Veolia on the likely costs to ESCC from the introduction of food waste collections.


34.4     The Team estimates that ESCC will receive around 16,000 tonnes of food waste a year for disposal, but will not know for sure until collections start. A waste composition analysis is being commissioned to provide an up to date estimate of the amount of food waste in black bag/bin, residual waste. Information from Brighton and Hove City Council in 2022 indicated that around 40% of blag bag waste was food waste. In Surrey, where all councils currently operate a food waste collection service, around 25% of black bag waste was food waste.


34.5     The Woodlands IVC facility currently composts green waste and food waste from Lewes District Council (LDC). The composting process takes six weeks which sterilises the waste and produces a high quality compost which is used by local farmers and sold at the Household Waste Recycling Sites.


34.6     The Committee discussed the report and a summary of the questions and comments raised is given below.


Communications and quantity of food waste

34.7     The Committee commented that it would be good to have a communications campaign on food waste reduction and what residents can recycle. The Committee also asked about the amount of food waste that is likely to be collected and factors that may affect it. The Waste Team Manager outlined that there is usually an increase in the amount of food waste collected when collections are introduced and then volumes tend to go down. This could be due to residents being more aware of food waste which leads to a reduction or residents not participating in collections. The volumes of food waste collected by LDC have gone up and down, but the tonnage collected has been fairly low. This may be due to LDC having weekly residual waste collections rather than fortnightly ones which provide more of an incentive to put out food waste for collection. It was clarified that food waste percentages are measured by volume.


Can residents opt out of food waste collections

34.8     The Committee asked whether residents could opt out of food waste collections. The Waste Team Manager responded that residents could choose not to present food waste for collection, but councils have to provide a collection service.


Composting capacity and green waste

34.9     The Committee asked if the Woodlands facility had enough capacity to compost all the food waste and if there was enough green waste to mix with the food waste for the composting process to work properly. The Waste Team Manager confirmed that there was enough green waste to mix with the food waste for the composting process. He also outlined that the Woodlands facility has the capacity to process 43,000 tonnes of waste per year and should have sufficient capacity to deal with all the food waste. The Waste Team Manager added that a site visit to the Woodlands facility could be arranged for Committee members to see the composting process and what is involved.


Costs and cost effectiveness of the service

34.10 The Committee asked about the level of additional costs associated with disposing of food waste and whether it was cost effective given that ESCC has an incinerator and there may still be 20% food waste in the residual black bag waste after collections are introduced. The Waste Team Manager responded that the Team were still working with Veolia on the costs for the food waste disposal and there is a risk of additional costs to ESCC. This is subject to negotiation with Veolia as it will be a variation to the waste contract and is likely to include costs for sealed containers for the food waste, vehicles and the modification of waste transfer stations. The main driver for introducing food waste collections is to reduce carbon emissions from waste and it moves food waste up the waste and recycling hierarchy. However, the economics of introducing food waste collections are not entirely clear.


34.11   The Committee asked if Surrey County Council had carried out an analysis of why there was still around 25% food waste in black bag waste when there was a food waste collection service. The Waste Team Manager agreed to approach Surrey CC to find out if they had done any work on this.


Food waste contamination and biodegradable bags

34.12   The Committee asked whether the composting system could handle contamination of the food waste and how it would deal with biodegradable bags. The Waste Team Manager responded that the current garden waste has been incredibly clean, and the level of potential contamination is unknown. Screens and shredders are used in the process to filter out contaminants and Veolia is reasonably confident that the process can handle contaminants, but it is a concern. The standards for compost are very high and Veolia will reject waste if there is a high level of contamination. The process can handle compostable bags if they comply to the national standard. Some authorities have provided compostable bags to encourage food waste recycling, but this can lead to a reduction in food waste collected if they are withdrawn. It was clarified that food waste is usually collected in a separate vehicle.


34.13   The Committee RESOLVED to note the report.



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