Food waste driving confidence in UK composting sector

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food waste, Composting

Increased collection of food waste is underpinning confidence in the UK’s composting sector, the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) and Association for Organic Recycling (AFOR) have said.

The UK composting industry grew by nine per cent year-on-year in 2007/08 with 4.5m tonnes collected and composted, according to the latest figures in a survey by the two bodies.

Growing demand

Demand for composted products continued to rise and the industry turned over more than £165m in the year to April 2008. More than 600,000 tonnes of extra production capacity is expected to come on stream within the next five years as many of the 107 companies who took part in the survey said they were planning to expand their operations, said the research.

Dr Richard Swannell, director of retail and organics at WRAP said: “The composting industry has experienced phenomenal growth and this will continue as food waste collections take off.

“Our research shows that compost producers are well placed to meet the growing demand for food waste processing. The drive to produce quality outputs, shown in the survey, will be key to the development of the industry in the future.”

Most of the food waste recycled currently comes from local authority collections and increasing amounts from this stream is driving confidence in the composting market, said a WRAP statement. Most local authority collected food waste – 400,000 tonnes – was collected with garden waste. The report estimated that around 237,000 tonnes of product derived from food waste feedstocks was sold in the UK in 2007/08.

Non municipal waste

At present, only 538,000 tonnes – or 12 per cent - of the total waste recycled is sourced from non-municipal sources. Just under 200,000 tonnes of this comes from food industry waste, added the report.

The study forecast there will be an increase in anaerobic and in-vessel composting to treat the greater quantities of food waste that are expected to be recycled.

Jeremy Jacobs, AFOR managing director, said: “Food waste processing has huge potential for the UK’s composting and biological treatment industry. As we begin to rely on this sector for renewable energy, via Anaerobic Digestion, as well as composted products – waste will increasingly be seen as a valuable commodity – not a problem.”

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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