Hospitality businesses need support understanding upcoming food waste legislation
Over a quarter (26%) of businesses across the hospitality sector don’t currently recycle their food waste and just under half (42%) say that they don’t consider food waste recycling to be a key priority in their business, according to a new report by Keenan Recycling.
This comes as new legislation from DEFRA and the Welsh Government’s Business, Public, and Third Sector Recycling Regulation is currently in consultation and due to come into force within the next year.
The new legislation is expected to mandate that any business producing over 5kg of food waste will need to separate and recycle their waste through a registered food waste carrier service, or risk potentially hefty financial penalties.
Although the legislation is fast approaching, 37% of hospitality businesses say they have little or no understanding of it and over half (52%) say they feel unprepared.
However, 60% of hospitality businesses say that recycling food waste is one of their main priorities when considering how to reduce their carbon footprint and half of the respondents (49%) did say that their business is working to gain an understanding of the legislation so that they can implement changes at their business.
There is absolutely a business case for more sustainable practices.
Marten Lewis, head of corporate responsibility at Bluestone National Park Resort, said: “There is absolutely a business case for more sustainable practices. By tracking, measuring and decreasing our food waste we have been able to both attract new customers and decrease our expenditure when it comes to the procurement of food for our guests.
“We conducted a questionnaire last year, which was returned by three and a half thousand people, and 89% said they would pay more for a sustainable product provided the quality was there.”
Grant Keenan, managing director at Keenan Recycling, said: “Our research found that the hospitality sector is actually ahead of other industries when it comes to food waste recycling, which is a great position to be in with new laws imminent.
“But despite this, half still don’t feel prepared for the changes. A sticking point for many is the misconception that food waste recycling is expensive. However, our research found that recycling food waste rather than sending it to landfill can save businesses almost £7,000 per year.
A sticking point for many is the misconception that food waste recycling is expensive.
“At Keenan Recycling, we have been working with the hospitality sector in Scotland since similar legislation came into force back in 2014 and all the businesses that we work with have successfully adapted their operations to adhere to the regulations.
“So, the fact that businesses across the UK are already working to gain an understanding of legislation is a really positive sign and over the coming months there is a big opportunity for the sector to embrace the changes, not only to reduce carbon emissions but to save them money, too.”
Valpak collaboration with textiles retailers provides analysis of recycling potential in the UK
Reconomy Group company Valpak has published an analysis of textiles data to help retailers understand the scale of opportunity for textile reuse and recycling, and to show how recycling can complement reuse in the development of a circular economy for textiles.
The report – From Waste to Worth: An Analysis of Textile Recycling Opportunity in the UK – analysed data from six UK textiles retailers, as well as consulting brands, sorters and recyclers. The data was used to determine breakdown of materials, and suitability for mechanical and chemical recycling, with additional analysis on reusability.
Steve Gough, CEO at Valpak, said: “Sustainable textiles management is rising swiftly up the agenda, with legislation and consumer demand bringing it into focus. Valpak already manages textiles compliance for businesses operating in France, and the rest of the EU is likely to follow suit with its own textile legislation in the next 12 months.
“For the textiles report, we have used a similar methodology and approach to Valpak’s previous PackFlow reports, which determine the flow of packaging onto the market and the various packaging recycling routes. As with all of these reports, they use best available information and analysis, so we are always happy to hear from interested parties who have further information.
Established open-loop systems already successfully process textiles into usable products.
“While only representing a relatively small sample, Valpak’s textiles report shows a clear pattern – textile products made from single fibres offer significantly greater opportunity for recycling.
“It is also worth mentioning that while businesses pursue the holy grail – closed-loop recycling – established open-loop systems already successfully process textiles into usable products. A combination of reuse, closed and open-loop is likely to emerge as the most effective solution.”
Report findings: The importance of material specification
The prevalence of materials varied depending on textiles categories. The dominant material in the clothing category, for example, was cotton (57%), followed by polyester (24%). However, large variations were found between men, women’s and children’s clothing. The report also analysed footwear, accessories and household textiles.
60% of total material was found to be recyclable using a combination of chemical recycling and open-loop mechanical recycling, or 53% of total material using a combination of chemical recycling and closed-loop mechanical recycling (where feedstock is mono-fibre for both types of mechanical recycling).
Open-loop mechanical recycling shreds textiles for use in applications such as insulation, filling of car seats, or industrial wipes. Fibre-to-fibre, or closed-loop systems, recycle fibre back into new fibre. Chemical recycling is able to separate some blends, which mechanical fibre-to-fibre recycling typically does not.
53% of material was found to be open-loop mechanically recyclable. This is based on the assumption that only mono-fibre material is open-loop mechanically recyclable, however. Extending the scope to include polycotton blends increased recyclability to 68%.
A 2022 report by McKinsey estimates that currently less than 1% of textile waste is fibre-to-fibre recycled. While technologies are developing rapidly, issues around collection, sorting, and pre-processing capacity currently limit the potential for fibre-to-fibre.
The Valpak study showed that the sorting process will be essential in achieving high recycling rates. If we are to build a circular textiles economy, significant investment in effective sorting infrastructure is needed.
A total of 46% of material was closed-loop (fibre-to-fibre) mechanically recyclable, while 28% of products were found to be chemically recyclable (if using a chemical recycling feedstock specification of 95% or more cotton content).
The overriding consensus from stakeholders was that textile products should adhere to the waste hierarchy – reuse should be prioritised over recycling, and reduction should take precedence over reuse.
33% of the material analysed was considered to have a low likelihood of reusability; 42% a medium level of reusability, and 26% a high level of reusability. Bed sets and towels were among those items with a high level of recyclability and low likelihood of reusability, making them an ideal target material for recycling.
Gough concluded: “This study is based on the best available data, and outputs should be considered as indicative, with the potential to expand the scope of the study to increase robustness. Valpak would like to invite any stakeholders who have any data or insight that could be valuable to a potential second phase of this project to approach Valpak to discuss collaboration.”
Toolkit to help wood recyclers prepare for withdrawal of RPS 250
The Wood Recyclers’ Association has launched a toolkit to help wood recyclers prepare for the withdrawal of RPS 250 (Hazardous waste wood from demolition and refurbishment activities) in September.
The toolkit contains a package of resources to ensure full compliance with the upcoming regulatory change with minimal disruption to operations.
The withdrawal of Regulatory Position Statement 250 on September 1 in England by the Environment Agency means that certain kinds of potentially hazardous waste wood from pre-2007 buildings, which can currently be sent for recycling or recovery under the RPS, will no longer be accepted at wood recycling sites.
These will only be accepted if tested to show they are not hazardous by being sent off for a simple test.
The toolkit includes:
- A step-by-step checklistof what wood recyclers need to do.
- A printable poster/visual guideto help operatives identify what materials can no longer be processed unless tested and proven non-hazardous.
- A sample acceptable materials guide, to help companies update their own acceptance criteria.
- An updated WRA wood grading system, to show which materials are now deemed hazardous.
- A training videoexplaining the changes and the steps wood recycling businesses need to take (COMING SOON).
Wood recyclers are being advised to communicate the upcoming change to customers, to train their staff to recognise this material, to make sure their quarantine processes for hazardous material are up to date and to ensure that none is accepted onto their sites.
Vicki Hughes, Technical Lead on the WRA Board, said: “We are delighted to be launching this toolkit to help our members prepare for the withdrawal of RPS 250 in September.
“The Environment Agency has said it will be checking the protocols of sites accepting waste wood, so it is important that operators understand what changes they need to make.
“There are only three months to go so we urge wood recyclers and their suppliers to start looking at what they need to do now.”
We are delighted to be launching this toolkit to help our members prepare for the withdrawal of RPS 250 in September.
The announcement comes after five years of work by the WRA under its Waste Wood Classification Project, during which it successfully reduced the number of items subject to this change from hundreds, with all the costs associated with them, to just ten, all from pre-2007 buildings.
The ten potentially hazardous items from pre-2007 buildings are barge boards; external fascia; soffit boards; external joinery; external doors; roof timber; tiling cladding; tiling battens; timber frames and timber joists.
The WRA is now calling for all those handling demolition waste wood to carry out as many tests as possible on the remaining items before September to help reduce this list further.
Vicki said: “Testing is vital if we are to remove more of these items from the list and ensure as much material is recycled or recovered as possible. However, it is important that those who do send samples off for testing carefully follow WRA guidance and grant permission, on an anonymous basis, for us to access and analyse the results.”
She added: “RPS250 only applies in England, but the other three UK environmental regulators have similar positions in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. SEPA in Scotland have confirmed that their guidance will also change to follow the same principles and although NRW in Wales and NIEA in Northern Ireland haven’t confirmed what changes will take place there, wood processors will need to follow the same guidelines across the UK as waste wood moves across borders so acceptance criteria will need to be updated UK-wide.”
RPS250 only applies in England, but the other three UK environmental regulators have similar positions in place in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Richard Coulson, chair of the WRA, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Vicki and Julia for producing this toolkit and to all those who have worked so hard on delivering our Waste Wood Classification Project over the past five years on behalf of our industry.
“Their time, dedication and commitment have been invaluable and have been instrumental in minimising the impact of these changes.”
Resources and waste minister “open to increasing wood packaging targets”
Resources and waste minister Rebecca Pow has said that she is open to increasing packaging recycling targets for waste wood following a call led by the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA).
The WRA sent a letter co-signed by the Wood Panel Industries Federation and Confor to Defra in May calling for higher packaging recycling targets from 2024 to drive investment in recycling and ensure as much wood as possible is recycled in line with the waste hierarchy into products such as panel board and animal bedding.
The targets determine how much support wood reprocessors receive through the Packaging Waste Recovery Note (PRN) system but are set at just 35% for 2023 – the lowest for any material.
Responding to the letter this week (June 14th), Rebecca Pow said: “I am encouraged that the wood sector is keen to have higher recycling targets.
I am encouraged that the wood sector is keen to have higher recycling targets.
“As part of finalising our plans for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), we will be confirming future recycling targets for all packaging materials.
“I am open to increasing targets for wood packaging and I have asked Defra officials to update you on current thinking.”
Ms Pow added that Defra intended to “resume the work on reusable packaging including specific measures to increase the reuse of wooden pallets” to “deliver the intended environmental benefits associated with increased re-use, whilst still providing incentives to recycle waste wood packaging where appropriate at the end of life.”
Commenting on the response, WRA Chair Richard Coulson, said: “We are very pleased to hear that Defra are open to increasing the packaging recycling targets for waste wood, which have been set too low for too long.
“Setting higher targets under EPR will ensure that as much waste wood as possible is recycled in accordance with the waste hierarchy and will help to protect the many benefits the waste wood reprocessing sector brings.
Setting higher targets under EPR will ensure that as much waste wood as possible is recycled in accordance with the waste hierarchy.
“We look forward to engaging with officials at Defra to ensure any future targets create the best environmental outcome for both wood which is reusable and that which is not. We hope that any replacement to the PRN system also continues to support the recycling of suitable waste wood packaging.”
Alastair Kerr, Director General of the Wood Panel Industries Federation, said: “We welcome the statement by the Minister that Defra are open to the idea of increasing wood packaging recycling targets.
“Over the past decade we have seen the volumes of wood packaging come through for recycling reduce significantly. The capacity to recycle this material remains, all that is needed is the driver to push the material from recovery into recycling”.
Opinion: How biotech can help waste handlers in England achieve AT4 compliance
Dr Stephen Wise, Chief Strategic Development Officer, Advetec, examines how biotech can help waste handlers in England achieve AT4 compliance and stay one step ahead of policymakers.
Realising net zero by 2050 requires a major shift in the way the UK handles waste. And so, it came as no surprise when, last month, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched a consultation on achieving the ‘near elimination’ of biodegradable waste disposal in landfills from 2028.
The consultation, designed to inform the development of future policies, applies only to England – a nation that’s significantly behind the curve. Both Scotland and the Republic of Ireland have already committed to biodegradable landfill reduction measures.
The move towards change is welcome, as is the government’s bid to use the consultation to understand the drivers for the continued landfilling of biodegradable waste and the barriers to alternative treatment. This is the first step of a journey that will, no doubt, see the implementation of new regulations for the waste management sector. So, it’s important to understand exactly why a solution is needed and what that solution might look like.
Why do we need to eliminate biodegradable waste to landfill?
Municipal and ‘mixed’ biodegradable waste are being placed under the spotlight of the Defra consultation.
Although recent policy has focused on the diversion of biodegradable waste from disposal in landfill from the municipal sector, there is still much work to be done. An estimated 4.9 million tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste were sent to landfill in England in 2020.
Emissions from the waste sector are largely composed of methane and carbon dioxide, which are produced when biodegradable waste breaks down in landfill. The consultation document states that, ‘in 2021, landfill gas from closed and operational landfills was estimated to emit 13.6 Mt CO2e, which is ~ 72% of the total emissions from the Waste Sector.’ Reducing these emissions, therefore will help propel the UK towards Net Zero faster.
How will biodegradable waste be regulated?
A drive to retrieve as much recyclable material as possible from municipal waste streams is key but this alone is unlikely to achieve the ‘near elimination’ of biodegradable waste to landfill by 2028, something that the government recognises.
If England follows in the regulatory footsteps of Scotland and Ireland, AT4 tests will be implemented and enforced, within a fairly short timeframe.
The AT4 test measures the stability of biodegradable waste and considers whether it will break down further, which could cause additional release of greenhouse gas, odour and leachate.
Biodegradable waste that does not meet the stipulated AT4 level will not be permitted for landfill disposal.
How can biotechnology provide a solution?
Harnessing innovation that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions from biodegradable waste is vital.
One treatment option available is biotechnology and the use of blends of bacteria – or bio-stimulants – to digest Mixed Residual Waste (MRW). At Advetec, we have successfully employed this science to support AT4 compliance by stabilising waste so it can not break down further.
Our XO technology, which removes the organic component of MRW using accelerated aerobic digestion, has been proven to meet meets Ireland’s AT4 limit of 7mgO2/ds and also the incoming Scottish AT4 limit for biodegradable waste destined for landfill.
Once waste has been treated with biotechnology it is stable and therefore suitable for landfill. But it doesn’t have to be the only destination. The floc created by the process is also optimally suited for use as a high-quality Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) which can help energy-intensive industries to decarbonise more quickly. This means waste once considered worthless, now has real commercial value.
For waste handlers in England this affords some valuable peace of mind. Treating biodegradable municipal waste with biotechnology will put them one step ahead of impending legislation, remove limitations on landfill, open up new disposal routes and reduce costs.
As the waste management landscape in England evolves, those with the right knowledge, tools and partners will be best prepared for the change.
Opinion: Digital Deposit Return Schemes across the UK
Re-Gen’s Managing Director, Joseph Doherty, considers the future of digital deposit return schemes.
The forthcoming regulations for a UK deposit return scheme (DRS) need to include provision for digital solutions.
A digital DRS provides householders with the ability to use their smartphone to scan the codes on their drinks containers to an app. They will receive credits which can be redeemed as part of the system. It simplifies the collection, return and refund process.
The householder is central to every decision regarding collections, recycling rates, and addressing ‘wishcycling’ which has also been in the newspaper headlines recently. The best solution is to put the householder front and centre and provide a collection system that is simple and convenient.
The introduction of a digital deposit return is state-of-the-art. Putting the householder at the centre of recycling, digital DRS provides them with control while being carbon efficient as the collection is still made from their house. It would also address potential fraud in the system.
A digital DRS would provide real-time data management and that is something that the UK recycling industry would welcome. Data is essential for recycling companies, producers of drinks containers, and policymakers in government.
At last week’s Environmental Packaging Conference, Alice Rackley, from Polytag, outlined why it felt this fast-developing area of innovation should not be locked out of the DRS regulations because Defra doesn’t have the vision to see its benefits.
Re-Gen fully supports innovations like a digital deposit return scheme where investment in technological solutions continues to make recycling easy for the householder and leaves the heavy lifting to the technology.
The Patamera digital system in Norway is user-friendly and has seen a high level of participation by householders. Recycling relies on behaviour change and consumer habits and trends could be monitored more easily through a national digital system.
Properly planned and introduced, digital DRS could also reduce the costs around collection, sorting and processing. Communicating with householders would be another benefit of the app. Some local authorities in Northern Ireland already use apps with reminders on recycling collection days. Digital technology provides numerous opportunities to promote recycling, and the circular economy, and to inform and educate our citizens.
Re-Gen has been trialling visual recognition systems, such as Greyparrot and Recycleye, finding out how they can optimise existing processes, how they can provide rich data to inform future developments and provide robust evidence to scheme administrators and Government.
The UK’s recycling industry can’t let the opportunities of tomorrow be wasted because those in charge of drafting the legislation lack vision and have no insight into where the sector is developing right now.