Organics waste includes garden waste, food waste and other forms of biodegradable waste. Much of this – food waste in particular – is avoidable, with 4.4 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste being thrown away each year at an average annual cost of £470 per family. This waste produces 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (or equivalent) emissions, comparable to the emissions produced by one in four cars on UK roads.
You can reduce the amount of food you throw out by learning more about food waste, how to make food last longer and how to dispose of food waste in an environmentally responsible way.
WRAP figures reveal that, in the UK, 95 per cent of local authorities operate a kerbside garden waste collection. In Wales, all local authorities provide this service, but 18 per cent charge for it. In terms of food waste collections, around 93 per cent of Welsh households have access to a food waste collection, as opposed to the UK average of 50 per cent.
When collected for recycling, organic waste can be put to a variety of uses. Composting produces useful products such as biofertilisers and biogas, through in-vessel composting, open-air windrow composting, or anaerobic digestion (where organic matter is decomposed in a container without oxygen). Recycling just one tonne of food waste through anaerobic digestion can generate around 300kWh of energy – enough to charge around 5,500 iPads.
The most common way our food waste is treated is by using a process known as ‘anaerobic digestion’. Microorganisms called ‘methanogens’ break down food waste inside a tank
It produces ‘biogas’, which is collected and used to generate ‘green energy’ that powers homes and communities across the nation
It also creates bio-fertiliser that can be used in farming and for land regeneration
Garden waste is taken to a composting facility. It’s sorted and screened, and anything that can’t be composted is removed
It’s shredded and laid out in a long pile called a windrow to decompose into compost
Windrows are turned to allow more oxygen into the mixture, to encourage the growth of bacteria and fungus – known as ‘microorganisms’ – which speeds up the composting process
It reaches around 60 degrees Celsius to kill any harmful pathogens, weeds, and plant diseases. Once completely broken down, the compost is used:
- by farmers and growers to produce food
- in parks and public gardens
- as a soil conditioner in household gardens