The circular economy of food waste

Kate Mortimer, Group Marketing and Communications Manager, Olleco
Food is estimated to be responsible for around 30% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. As it breaks down in landfill, food waste gives off methane – which is 25 times more damaging to the environment than CO₂. However, there is a simple solution. By separating food waste for collection, it can be safely processed so the methane is captured and used to make renewable energy and organic fertiliser.

Used cooking oil is one of the most valuable elements in the waste produced in kitchens. It contains a huge amount of energy, even after it has been used, and therefore it is important to capture it separately. By processing it through our state of the art biorefinery, Olleco converts used cooking oil into biodiesel which reduces the carbon impact of road vehicles by up to 86%. It also contains food particles which we filter and feed to our on-site anaerobic digestion plant which then powers the biorefinery. As well as these environmental benefits, most restaurants enjoy a financial return from their oil collection. So disposing of it in any other way isn’t just harming the environment, it’s damaging their bottom line.

Image by Paul Michael Hughes 

Removing food from their general waste stream will have a significant effect on waste disposal costs. Landfill tax means it now costs over £100 per tonne to dispose of general waste whereas it costs less than half of that to take food waste to an anaerobic digestion plant. Food will be the heaviest component of their waste so, stripping it out, will help reduce their general waste collection costs. It also makes the remaining general waste more recyclable by removing food contamination.

Restaurants may worry that they won’t have enough space for extra bins but it’s important to remember, they won’t actually be generating any more waste and we can advise on hygienic, spacE-saving split bin solutions and space-saving techniques for used oil storage.

Restaurants using Olleco’s food waste collections have seen disposal costs fall by as much as 44%. Segregating food waste is often a starting point to trigger reduction strategies and many of our customers are reducing avoidable food waste which costs the sector nearly £1 per meal (WRAP).

But, most impressive of all, is the fact that in its short lifetime, our biorefinery has reduced CO₂ emissions by approaching one million tonnes, demonstrating the incredible effect businesses can have by embracing the circular economy.

For more information about how you and your business can benefit from Food Waste: Bad Taste click here.

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