A selection of food waste. The county is set to introduce a pilot to recycle it

Food waste pilot scheme to start in September

As part of its drive to combat climate change and improve recycling rates in Northumberland, the county council’s Cabinet has approved the trial of a pilot scheme to collect residents' food waste for recycling.   

The council’s Cabinet agreed on the trial which is set to begin in September with separate weekly food waste collections being provided to around 4,800 households. 

The homes that will be invited to participate in the trial will include parts of Morpeth and Bedlington, along with properties in the villages of Pegswood, Hebron, Longhirst and Ulgham. These areas have been selected as they offer a representative cross-section of the different households and property types in the county, and are also close to the collection operations base in Morpeth. Two of these trial areas are already currently participating in a glass recycling trial and their data will be particularly important if both trials are to be extended countywide in the future.  

Householders selected for the trial will receive a letter and collection timetable in early September, and a small kitchen caddy along with a 23-litre bin will be delivered the following week. Weekly collections will start soon after with a specially procured vehicle designed to collect food waste. Residents will have the opportunity to sign up for electronic messaging reminders when their food waste bin is due for collection. 

Collections will be taken to an anaerobic digestion plant where micro-organisms will break down the food waste. This process produces renewable energy in the form of a biogas which can be used to produce heat, electricity, and transport fuel, as well as producing a nutrient rich biofertiliser that can be used to replace chemical fertilisers in agriculture.  

Cllr John Riddle, cabinet member responsible for waste management and recycling said: “I am extremely pleased that we are moving forward with the food waste recycling pilot scheme.     

“We already encourage households to reduce the amount of food waste they generate, and we are now looking to ensure that any food waste that is produced is treated in the most sustainable way possible to reduce carbon emissions and help protect the environment. We hope that residents will embrace this new service as their feedback will be crucial both to shaping future provision and assisting us in achieving the council’s goal of net-zero by 2030.”   

Participating households will be asked for their feedback after several months and data will be collected weekly to monitor the weight of food waste collected, its impact on wider waste collections, and participation levels. 

The trial will run for an initial period of 10 months after which it will be subject to a review. This will inform officers and members of the scheme’s costs and benefits, and help facilitate a decision on the potential to introduce a county-wide scheme once the government confirms support for food waste collections nationally in England.  

The pilot will also allow the council to evaluate the feasibility of offering residents in a number of more isolated rural areas a food waste compost bin recycling option, where it may not be economically or environmentally practical to send a dedicated food waste collection vehicle.    

In 2020 the Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP) estimated that UK households waste 4.5 million tonnes of edible food a year. This waste costs £700 annually for an average family with children.   

The council took part in the WRAP campaign Love Food, Hate Waste’s annual Food Waste Action Week earlier this year which encourages everyone to take action to reduce food waste. The campaign website features lots of advice, from fridge organisation tips to inventive recipes, and can be viewed at www.lovefoodhatewaste.com.  

The pilot forms part of the council’s ongoing monitoring and review of its waste management services and will take place alongside our ongoing glass recycling trial. By expanding the materials residents can recycle, we hope to achieve a recycling rate of above 50% which will be important in helping to meet our net-zero commitment by 2030.  

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