Compulsory Implementation of Food Waste Segregation for All Businesses Scheduled for 2023
27th June 2023
In a bid to combat the detrimental effects of climate change, the UK government has been making significant strides towards implementing new waste management strategies. The primary focus lies in waste reduction and, when reduction is not feasible, utilising waste as a valuable resource. By adopting these approaches, the aim is to effectively curb greenhouse gas emissions.
A mandatory food waste reporting system for large food businesses in England is one of the proposed strategies. However, the latest plan expands the scope and enforces mandatory food waste segregation for all businesses, not solely limited to the food industry. As waste management is under the purview of devolved powers, the timeline for implementing these laws will differ between businesses in Wales and England.
Food Waste Segregation Requirements
All businesses in England and Wales will be required to comply with the new legislation, with a particular emphasis on retail, hospitality, healthcare, and education sectors due to their higher volume of food waste production.
Under the new legal framework, food waste must be separated from other waste streams within any business.
The following guidelines outline the specifics:
- Food waste must be segregated into designated bins for collection.
- Disposal of food waste in landfills or through incineration is strictly prohibited; it must be recycled instead. The two approved methods for recycling food waste are composting and anaerobic digestion.
- Macerators, which use excessive water to chop and flush food down drains, and liquidising digesters will be completely banned.
- Drying or dewatering systems will still be permitted as they help reduce the volume of food waste during collection.
- The responsibility for waste recycling fees lies with the business or its staff who generate the waste.
Timeline for Wales
Wales is set to implement these rules ahead of England. The proposed timeline for the introduction of the food waste segregation legislation in Wales is October 2023.
Additionally, businesses operating in Wales will enjoy a 5kg exemption. If a business produces less than 5kg of food waste per week, it will be exempt from the segregation requirement. However, it is important to monitor this exemption closely, particularly for expanding businesses, as once the threshold is reached, food waste must be separated accordingly.
Timeline for England
The government is yet to announce a specific timeline for businesses operating in England. However, it is anticipated that England will follow suit in the near future.
Cost and Impacts
The primary cost implications will involve establishing appropriate procedures within each business for effective waste segregation and organising separate collection services for food waste. For businesses already implementing similar procedures, the transition should be relatively straightforward. While a separate collection service is necessary, diverting food waste from general waste collection is expected to reduce overall waste management costs.
Challenges may arise for businesses operating within shared building complexes, as collaboration with landlords will be required to implement a separate food waste collection system for the entire building. The current legislation does not clearly define the responsibility for this aspect.
Enforcement bodies will vary between England and Wales, as well as among different aspects of the legislation. In Wales, Natural Resources Wales will regulate waste segregation and the ban on incineration, while health inspectors will enforce the prohibition of food disposal into the sewer system. The regulatory body responsible for enforcing the English legislation is yet to be confirmed.
Enforcement poses the most significant challenge. With the legislation impacting all businesses in England and Wales, monitoring and ensuring compliance will be a daunting task, requiring substantial resources. It is unlikely that the government will allocate a sizable budget for this purpose, leaving several unanswered questions regarding the enforcement of food waste segregation. Implementing a mandatory reporting system could prove to be an effective alternative, as it would hold businesses more accountable. Currently, there are no plans to introduce a reporting system for all businesses.
England is currently considering an annual food waste reporting system, but it would only apply to larger food businesses.
New Initiative to Tackle Food Waste: Education and Collaboration
In addition to the mandatory food waste segregation and reporting measures, the government is recognizing the importance of education and collaboration in reducing food waste. A new initiative is being introduced to raise awareness and provide resources to businesses and consumers alike.
Education programs will be implemented to inform businesses about the benefits of effective waste management and the environmental consequences of food waste. Training sessions and workshops will equip employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to minimise waste generation and properly segregate food waste. By fostering a culture of waste reduction within businesses, the aim is to create lasting behavioural change.
Collaboration will also play a key role in combating food waste. The government will work closely with industry stakeholders, including retailers, food manufacturers, and hospitality providers, to develop innovative solutions and best practices. This collaborative approach will enable the sharing of insights and successful strategies to optimise food production, reduce losses, and divert surplus food to those in need through charitable organisations and food banks.
Furthermore, technology will be leveraged to streamline and improve food waste management. Smart waste monitoring systems will be introduced, allowing businesses to track and analyse their waste generation patterns in real time. This data-driven approach will enable businesses to identify areas of improvement and implement targeted waste reduction strategies. Additionally, digital platforms and apps will be developed to connect surplus food providers with potential recipients, reducing food waste while addressing food insecurity.
The government is committed to creating a supportive regulatory environment and providing financial incentives for businesses that actively participate in food waste reduction efforts. This includes tax credits, grants, and recognition programs for businesses that demonstrate exceptional waste reduction and sustainability practices.
By combining the enforcement of waste segregation regulations with education, collaboration, and technological advancements, the government aims to tackle food waste comprehensively. This holistic approach acknowledges that reducing food waste requires a collective effort from businesses, consumers, and policymakers, and emphasises the importance of long-term sustainable practices to achieve tangible results in combating climate change and promoting a circular economy.
Check out the links below for more information:
- Legislation: https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/RSA2019
- NEA factsheet: https://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/media-files/cos2021/cos2021-media-factsheet-mandatory-framework-for-food-waste-reporting.pdf
- NEA press release: https://www.nea.gov.sg/media/news/news/index/businesses-required-to-segregate-food-waste-for-treatment-under-new-legislation