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Food and drink waste hierarchy

20th June 2023

This guidance is for any business or organisation involved in the production, handling, treatment, or disposal of surplus or waste food and drink. Whether you’re a farmer, manufacturer, retailer, hospitality provider, or local authority, understanding the food and drink waste hierarchy is crucial for effective waste management.

When it comes to managing your food and drink surplus and waste, it’s crucial to follow the hierarchy’s list of options, ranking from 1 to 8, where 1 is the most preferred and 8 is the least. This hierarchy provides a structured approach to handling your waste effectively while complying with regulations.

Your priority should always be to prevent the generation of food and drink waste in the first place. 

Food and drink waste hierarchy

Food and drink waste hierarchy

Options 1 to 4 focus on preventing food waste from occurring within your business. 

By implementing these strategies, you can significantly reduce waste and its environmental impact:

  1. Prevent surplus and waste in your business: Take proactive measures to identify and minimise food waste. This includes measuring and recording your surplus and waste, as well as implementing strategies to prevent them. Utilise tools provided by organisations like the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to assist you, your suppliers, and customers in reducing food waste.
  2. Redistribute surplus food and drink: Instead of discarding surplus food, explore opportunities to donate it to charities, schools, commercial redistributors, or food banks. Ensure that the food is safe and suitable for human consumption, and avoid donating items past their “use-by” dates.
  3. Make animal feed from former food: If you have surplus food suitable for animal consumption, comply with feed hygiene requirements and consider supplying it as animal feed. Adhere to specific guidelines and register your site with the local authority if you handle or supply animal feed.
  4. Process surplus food to make biomaterials: Find innovative ways to repurpose and transform previously wasted or low-value materials into useful products. This can include converting food waste into packaging materials, bioplastics, feathers, leather, or even soaps and cosmetics.

Options 5 to 8 are legally required and help you meet your waste management obligations:

  1. Recycle: anaerobic digestion and composting: Separate your food waste from other waste streams and arrange for its collection to be sent for anaerobic digestion or composting. Anaerobic digestion is particularly beneficial as it not only recycles nutrients but also produces renewable energy.
  2. Recover waste by landspreading: Utilise compost and digestate as organic fertilisers by spreading them on land. Ensure you meet the necessary environmental permits and certification requirements.
  3. Recover energy from waste: If recycling options are limited, consider sending food waste to facilities that can recover energy from it. This involves processes such as incineration for energy generation. It offers better environmental outcomes compared to sending waste to sewer or landfill.
  4. Dispose: send to sewer and landfill: This should be the last resort when no other viable alternatives exist. Minimise the disposal of food waste in sewers or landfills as much as possible.

When deciding how to manage your food surplus and waste, factors such as cost and available facilities may influence your choices. It is recommended to follow the actions in the order they are listed, whenever feasible.

At Affordable Waste Management, we are experts in waste collection and disposal. Our team is ready to organize the pickup and proper disposal of any type of commercial waste.

Contact us today to discuss your waste management needs  0333 015 3522 

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