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Food waste collection bin

Wandsworth Council introduces food waste collection scheme in quest to reduce carbon emissions

Wandsworth council will launch a pilot food waste collection scheme this autumn as part of its efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The council will provide 2,300 homes in the Southfields Grid area with a dedicated food waste bin for the scheme which will begin in autumn 2021 and last for one year.

Residents can use the receptacles for any unpackaged cooked or uncooked food waste, which will be taken to a specialised plant to produce fertiliser and biogas for the National Gas Grid.

The borough announced an aggressive sustainability plan in 2019, setting a target of becoming a carbon neutral council by 2030 and a zero-carbon authority by 2050.

But the scheme’s introduction trails far behind those of many other London boroughs, with 26 of the 33 borough councils already providing food waste collection services.

Cabinet Member for Community Services and Open Spaces Steffi Sutters, the Conservative councillor responsible for the scheme’s introduction, was confident the scheme will see a strong uptake.

“We are proceeding with a limited pilot scheme to begin with to see how well it works,” the councillor said.

“Good communication with residents is key to understanding any barriers they may have to participation, but we are confident from the research we’ve done that most will be willing to give it a go.”

Labour councillor Paula Walker praised the scheme as an effective way to reduce incineration of waste, which she said would help air pollution and save the council money.

But she was critical of the council’s reticence to introduce the programme until now: “We handed in a petition in July 2019 with 1,200 signatures asking Wandsworth to pilot food waste collections and improve recycling rates which are among the worst in the country.

“I really hope that the pilot is to demonstrate how food waste collections can be done, rather than how difficult it is. Other councils such as neighbouring Lambeth and Merton have been collecting food waste for years.”

Residents in the Southfields Grid area will receive a food waste caddy for the kitchen and a kerbside collection box similar to the one pictured from Hammersmith and Fulham council (picture credit: Hammersmith and Fulham council / Creative Commons)

According to a letter sent to the scheme’s participants, households will receive a five-litre waste caddy for their kitchen, along with compostable caddy liners, a 23-litre food waste box for kerbside collection and a guidance booklet.

Wandsworth council collects around 30,000 tonnes of food waste each year, amounting to almost 43% of black bag waste which is currently sent for incineration.

The council reports Southfields Grid residents currently recycle around 29% of their waste, but expects this figure to increase to 50% if scheme participants commit just half of their food waste to the new scheme.

Councillor Sutters acknowledged other boroughs had been more pro-active with food collection, but said the delay had been used to analyse the results and pitfalls of existing schemes to make food collection in Wandsworth more successful.

“We are aware from other authorities that the volume of food waste collected falls off over time which means that the percentage of residual waste remains high. We want to avoid this type of inefficiency.

“To bring a borough-wide food waste collection service in would be hugely expensive and require us to have more vehicles on the road. It makes no economic sense to rush this, nor would additional vehicles help our carbon footprint.”

Wandsworth council currently collects around 30,000 tonnes of food waste each year from regular bins. Food waste currently accounts for almost 43% of black bag rubbish in Wandsworth (picture credit: Tee Cee/Flickr)

The extent to which the 2,300 homes in Southfields will participate in the scheme remains to be seen, but sentiments among residents appear positive.

Christine Harris Fosdal, a retiree who lives on Engadine street in the Southfields Grid, was eager to get involved in the scheme: “I wince every time I have to dump any leftovers to the trash, and as a keen cook, I have fruit and vegetable peelings almost every day.”

As a keen recycler, Harris Fosdal said the scheme would be particularly helpful in reducing her food waste as it provides a more efficient and hygienic alternative to at-home composting.

A specific date for the commencement of the scheme has not yet been provided.

Featured image: London Recycles / Creative Commons

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