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Food waste in the black bin – really?

September 17, 2021 10:50 AM
By Peter Dobbs

Black bin with food waste (Peter Dobbs)Some years ago Serco stuck labels on the Derbyshire Dales District Council's black (or grey) bins saying 'no food waste'. Some bins still have them attached - albeit faded.

Clearly committing food waste to landfill was regarded as a 'bad thing' - why was this?

Also new legislation is making the separate collection of food waste compulsory for all local authorities from 2023 - why?

If buried in landfill, organic matter such as food waste will be acted on by micro-organisms and will break down to simpler substances. In the absence of much oxygen (because it is buried and out of contact with the air) it breaks down anaerobically and forms gases like methane and hydrogen sulphide as well as less harmful substances. Because food waste is mostly made up of carbon, a lot of the food waste gets broken down to methane and methane is bad news for global warming since it is up to 80 times as effective a greenhouse gas as CO2.

Studies have shown that 1000kg (1 tonne) of food waste produces about 42kg of methane when it decomposes anaerobically.

A small percentage it seems - until you start doing some maths!

Our calculations (see here) suggest that the consequence of DDDC allowing Serco to suspend separate food waste collection and instead instructing us to put it in the black bin will result in the equivalent of an extra 57 tonnes of CO2 being released every week!

For comparison if all the projected CO2 reduction measures suggested by DDDC were implemented (at a cost of over £2.8 million), the expected CO2 reduction would be only 14 tonnes per week.

Food for thought - DON'T put your food waste in the black bin if you can avoid it.
Putting it on your own compost heap (if you have one) is much better.