Somerset shares best practice for collecting food waste
The Somerset Waste Partnership has recommended two ways in which councils can help successfully capture food waste which were "not fully covered" in recent WRAP research.
There are two aspects, not fully covered by the trials, involving food waste caddy liners and collection vehicles, which have been important features of our successful collections in Somerset
Published earlier this month (see letsrecycle.com story), the WRAP research was conducted by 19 local authorities serving over 94,000 households.
However, the SWP, which manages waste and recycling on behalf of Mendip, South Somerset, Sedgmoor and West Somerset district councils, Taunton Deane borough council and Somerset county council - has also provided food waste collections since October 2004 and serves over 165,000 households.
While welcoming the WRAP study, which highlighted public support for food waste collections, the SWP pointed out that it itself had increased yields through methods which were not discussed in detail.
In particular, it claimed it was not always necessary to provide free liners at a great cost to councils as had happened during the trials or to provide dedicated food waste collection vehicles - advocating selling liners locally and combined collection vehicles instead.
These methods have already helped the SWP to capture an average yield of 1.71 kg a household a week across Somerset, rising to 1.93kg in Taunton Deane. The SWP claimed that only two of the WRAP trials achieved more than this and overall averaged 1.7kg a household a week in areas where there were fortnightly refuse collections and 1.4kg a week for trials with weekly refuse collections.
David Mansell, strategy and communications team leader at the Somerset Waste Partnership, said: "The WRAP trials have increased knowledge on food waste collections, especially for multiple-occupancy housing and the performance that can be achieved over a range of local authorities, including those with weekly and fortnightly refuse collections. However, there are two aspects, not fully covered by the trials, involving food waste caddy liners and collection vehicles, which have been important features of our successful collections in Somerset."
While the WRAP study did acknowledge that the creation of an independent network for the distribution of liners could have the "added benefit of providing a new business opportunity for local retail outlets", WRAP said that the use of caddy liners was imperative in councils achieving high participation rates and issued them free of charge during the course of the study. Aware that there were certain resource implications, the study did state that the "associated avoided disposal costs could justify the provision of free liners".
However, the SWP said that when it first introduced food waste collections in 2004, the council stated that it could not afford to provide an on-going supply of caddy liners and instead promoted the use of newspaper to wrap food waste or line kitchen caddies and also made arrangements for liners to be sold in local shops.
Mr Mansell said: "Both options have worked well and retail liner sales have developed into a thriving local market, which we estimate could be worth over £450,000 a year in Somerset, with supermarkets and some local retailers now sourcing their own supplies."
The WRAP study also advocated the use of dedicated food collection vehicles, which the SWP contested.
The SWP currently operates combined collection vehicles which it says suits the rural layout of the authority.
Mr Mansell said: "The other feature of the Somerset collections which varies from the WRAP trials is the use of combined collection vehicles for greater operational efficiency, especially on collections in rural areas. The WRAP pilots used separate dedicated collection vehicles for food waste. In Somerset, our contractor, May Gurney, uses stillage vehicles which combine recycling and food waste collections."
The Partnership is currently undertaking trials of a three-way split compaction vehicle, which would have a section for food waste behind the driver's cab and split compaction chambers at the rear for plastics bottles and cardboard. The SWP pointed to the capabilities of this collection type and how it is currently used on the Isle of Wight to collect both food waste and refuse.
A 19-page information pack on Somerset's food waste collections is available from the Somerset Waste Partnership by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org