Food Waste Campaign: Myth-Busting

20 March 2017

1) It’s too expensive to start a food waste collection system. 

Wrong. There is of course some truth in the idea that there would be a number of start-up costs to the project. To implement a system of food waste collection, there will be an administrative cost. Add to this the cost of buying the caddies on which the waste would be collected and the maintenance of the central point that it would go to.

However, the maximum cost of this (as quoted by council representative to our partners in the past) is £1 million. It may well be less than that. Considering that Plymouth City Council (PCC) is currently spending £35 million on more traffic lanes (which, as studies show, only go to attract yet more traffic), surely a fiftieth of this cost to make a sustainable investment in Plymouth’s future is worth it. Not only that, but money will inevitably be saved in the long-term with food waste collections implemented. Most food waste recycling companies charge £20-30 per tonne on waste. The incinerator however, which is the current method of food waste disposal, charges around £80 per tonne on waste. With this, and the fact the non-food refuse collection could feasibly be cut with food waste being collected separately, the money would be recouped and then some over the course of time.

2) There’s no point in recycling our food waste anyway.  

The need for a decent system to make use of our unwanted food is necessary for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it prevents the air around our beautiful city and county being polluted incessantly by the incinerator at Devonport(more on which later). Therefore, any food waste that is recycled cannot be incinerated. The avoidance of incineration however is not the only good to come from food waste. It can also be an end in its own respect and not just a means to an end. For one thing, it can be used as an alternative to composting. Secondly, it can be used in a process called anaerobic digestion which essentially means the food being broken down to create biogas or biofertiliser. The biogas can be used as an alternative to the unsustainable fossil fuel industry and biofertiliser can be used as an alternative to chemical fertilisers which(aside themselves being made from non-renewable sources) run the risk of over fertilisation which can kill plants and also allow chemicals to build up into the soil and make their way into your fruits and vegetables. On the whole, a food waste collection is clearly needed for the sustainability of our planet and our ecosystem.

3) But wait, we’re stuck with the incinerator now so there’s nothing we can do? 

While we understand that there is a contract in place requiring the Council to continue using the Incinerator, the Green Party does not believe this should prevent progress. We are opposed to the presence of the Incinerator in the city but we believe that is a separate issue and we understand that fight is one for decade’s time, not right now. We insist that the Incinerator is not mutually exclusive with the introduction of a food waste campaign. The incineration quotas the Council needs to fulfil can be accomplished through other means. These include using non-food- waste from other local authorities outside of Plymouth. This could prevent the truly unwanted scenario of another incinerator being opened in North Devon, which has been mooted. Food waste is far more expensive than other forms of waste to burn (due to the necessity of cooling down wet food) and we find it unacceptable that we are spending needless money to waste a resource which can be put to a better use.

4) It’s too ambitious a project for you to get started on your own.

The Green Party is not alone in campaigning towards this end. The Plymouth Food Waste Partnership have put time and effort into researching the feasibility of food waste collection and lobbying the Council. Although the Council has not listened to them, that does not mean nobody shares their goals. We are committed to working alongside them and anyone else willing to support food waste collection in Plymouth. It is not a one-campaign- show, this is a bipartisan cause with support from across the board. Indeed, many eco-friendly business (see below) are already prepared to specifically collect food waste on pedal-bins.

5) Surely a more realistic aim is to focus on business food waste collection rather than get a domestic one started up? 

There’s no reason at all why we can’t focus on both. Transition Plymouth are currently planning on starting a food waste collection system for businesses who can dispose of their food waste to the aforementioned eco-friendly companies who will take it to Langage Farm and use it as biofertiliser to increase the quality of their produce. However, businesses have to pay to have their waste delivered in any case. Therefore, it is relatively easier to implement than a domestic collection. A domestic collection would require the approval of those who manage the city’s public services i.e., the council. It is important to both keep the pressure up on them to deliver the best for our city and do what we can to work alongside private businesses in the meanwhile.

6) People are too lazy to bother recycling their food. 

There are cases around the country, including Bristol and parts of London, demonstrating that food waste collection can be successful and that people are willing to participate given the chance. Once people are used to and have a greater understanding of the process, they are generally happy to participate in recycling their food waste. Let us not forget that students and Navy personnel based in the city may be used to this from their home towns. In many ways, this is more an issue with people being wary of change than laziness. The Green Party is determined to inform people that this is not only the environmental option but in the long run will prove to be the economical one as well. This is the kind of change we need to see in Plymouth. 

7) Even so, you can’t deny it will cause needless work for people.

Food waste forms a significant part of a household’s weekly waste so, under a food waste collection scheme, you should find that you will not have to change your regular bins as often as you do now. You also won’t have to worry as much about bags splitting with your general waste! If anything, this is the hassle free solution.

8) Won’t it smell? 

In 2008, the Government’s Food Waste Pilot Scheme indicated that previous concerns of hygiene and bad smells did not prove to be an issue for most participants. As long as the collection is implemented without cutting corners and with weekly collections, bad smelling waste should be no worse than it is today. In fact, with general

waste in Plymouth now moving to fortnightly collection, a weekly food waste collection would no doubt reduce foul smells, which will soon be coming from our bins.

9) This is all very well but it won’t affect much outside the environmental bubble.

On the contrary, aside from the plentiful environmental effects that we should strive for, there are a number of other goals that can be met by this project. All workers in the business collection would be paid the living wage by businesses and we would also strive to make this a precondition in any domestic arrangement. The money saved on incineration costs could be easily recouped here. In addition, we would be spared the unseemly sight of bins overflowing onto Plymouth’s streets. This is something that is already a problem in the Barbican (and doubtless dents the tourism industry in Plymouth) and will only be made worse by the council’s move to fortnightly collections. Finally, people seeing how much food waste they throw away could encourage them to be more resourceful with food and waste less of it in the first place.

10) Is this really a priority issue at the moment?

Yes, absolutely. Not only is this the perfect moment to grab a thorny issue by the horns due to PCC’s ‘reform’ (read: cuts) of the bin-collection services, it is vital for the planet as well. 2016 was the warmest year in recorded history with temperatures spiralling wildly out of control and scientists blaming human activity. The earth has not been this hot in over 100,000 years and unless drastic action is taken, we are looking at a climate catastrophe.

The Plymouth Green Party implores Plymouth City Council to see sense and implement a solution that is economically viable, socially helpful and environmentally essential.



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