How 2023 food waste legislation will impact businesses

Mixed Food Waste

MANY businesses will be pausing to consider their environmental impact as the government announces mandatory separate food waste segregation for all businesses.

The government passed the Environmental Act in 2021, which will come into effect this year.

Although an official date is yet to be revealed, businesses will be required to separate food waste from their general waste and have it collected separately.

When food waste goes to landfill, it releases methane which is 25% more potent than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere and therefore contributing to global warming.

The new legislation will support the government’s decision to halve food waste by 2030 as part of its commitment to sustainable development goals. This will enable a transition away from a single-use, throwaway society to a more circular economy.

We outline how this may affect businesses and how they can prepare.

Who will be affected?
The new legislation will affect all businesses and sectors that generate food waste as part of their day-to-day processes. This may include:

  • Hospitality
  • Retail
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Sporting facilities
  • Public institutions

It’s possible that waste segregation can have a positive effect on your costings. Generally, food waste is quite heavy so disposing of it among your general waste can increase costings. When separated, your general waste should be much lighter.

Segregated food waste, for instance, is up to five times cheaper to dispose of per kilo. Therefore, your general waste will not only be lighter, but overall cheaper to dispose of.

A waste audit may be beneficial to help you itemise your outgoing waste so you can decide how to better manage your processes.

Food waste recycling in action
Some firms may be better prepared for the new legislation than others – particularly in companies which have no segregation of waste streams or little experience of sustainable waste management. An extra food waste bin will be needed in addition to setting up a new collection day.

When waste is segregated, one novel solution could be to use composters which process all types of food and garden waste. This effectively transforms food waste into highly-effective fertiliser which can then be used on lawns and other garden areas to help grow fresh fruit and vegetables in line with circular principles.

Typically, minimal resources are required to run such a device. Only around 15-20 minutes of labour is required per day, while the cost of running the composter would only include cheap ‘bulking agents’, such as wood chips and coffee grounds, alongside minimal electric power.

What else can businesses do?
 Businesses should be proactive with their approach to food waste. Some tips to consider are:

  • Separating food waste into a different bin for collection
  • Food waste must not be sent to landfill. Send to recycling through composting or anaerobic digestion instead
  • Refrain from using macerators or liquidising digestors as these have now been banned completely.

Businesses should look to follow the food and drink waste hierarchy as outlined by the government. This is an eight step compliance policy with one being best and eight, worst. Options 1 to 4 provide guidance on how to prevent food waste while options 5 to 8 are required by law:

  1. Prevent surplus and waste in your business.
  2. Redistribute surplus food and drink.
  3. Make animal feed from former food.
  4. Process surplus food to make biomaterials.
  5. Recycle – anaerobic digestion and compostion.
  6. Recover waste by landspreading.
  7. Recover energy from waste.
  8. Dispose – send to sewer and landfill.

The introduction of these new food waste legislation will pose a challenge to businesses as they race against time to get their processes in order.

However, if implemented correctly, could pave the way to a more sustainable, carbon-neutral future.

A spokesperson from the Food and Drink Federation said:

“We welcome today’s decision by the Scottish Government to delay the Deposit Return Scheme and align to the UK scheme, expected to be launched in October 2025. Our members fully support the implementation of DRS and have made significant investments to support the launch of the Scottish scheme, and we will now need to assess the implications of the delay.

“Our businesses are working to stretching sustainability targets and take their responsibility to our natural environment very seriously, which is why we want to see a circular economy established rapidly, designed with industry and consumers at their heart. We hope governments across the UK will now take the time provided by this delay to go back to the drawing board on their waste reform proposals, to ensure that everything including consistent collections, DRS and EPR can be delivered successfully, learning the lessons from the collapse of the DRS scheme in Scotland.”

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