What are the Benefits of Recycling Food Waste?

From crops lost to pests to leftovers from food manufacturing and even plate scrapings from the staff canteen, some business food waste is inevitable. What is not so inevitable is the amount we produce, and the way we decide to dispose of it.

In the UK in 2018, 9.5 million tonnes of food were wasted – a large proportion of which was edible and could have been used to feed the hungry (WRAP). Clearly, dealing with it in the best way is an environmental, economic, and moral imperative.

At SL Recycling, we’re waste management experts, providing specialist recycling, processing, and skip hire solutions. We’re committed to helping businesses in a range of sectors discover waste management solutions as eco-friendly as they are wallet-friendly! Better for your business, and better for the planet – that’s the SL Recycling way.

In this article, we discuss the problem of food waste and explain why it should be recycled.

What is Food Waste?

The definition of food waste used by the UK and the EU comes from the FUSIONS project. It states that food waste is any food including inedible parts removed from the supply chain to be recovered or disposed of. What gets left out of this description is the fact that not only the actual food is wasted, but also all the resources, energy, money, and water that went into producing it in the first place. Globally, 70% of freshwater is used in agriculture. When food is thrown away, that valuable water gets wasted too.

Some split the term into food waste and food loss. Food waste refers to food that completes the supply chain and is fit for consumption but still gets wasted, whereas food loss refers to food that is spilled, spoilt, or otherwise lost in some way during production.

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Why is Food Waste a Problem?

Whilst there is some variation in the exact figures, it is generally agreed that globally we waste around a third of all food produced for human consumption. Considering that around the world 811 million people go hungry, this is a shocking statistic.

And it doesn’t stop there. Food waste is also incredibly bad for the environment. The global food system as a whole is responsible for 37% of total greenhouse gas emissions. This is a big price to pay considering a significant proportion of the food produced is not even being eaten! If not recycled, food waste can end up in landfill where it breaks down and produces methane – a gas thought to be more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Finally, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, there’s the soil problem. Some parts of the UK are estimated to have only a decade of soil fertility left. That’s because topsoil is being lost 100 times faster than it is forming. Instead of replenishing the soil or feeding the hungry, our organic waste is filling up landfill and producing harmful greenhouse gases. Something needs to change.

Find out more: What Are the Negative Effects of Landfill?

How is Food Waste Recycled?

The food waste hierarchy states that before anything else, edible food waste should be used to feed humans. Food waste still fit for consumption can be supplied to food banks and other charities who will then make it available to hungry people.

If this is not possible, the next most preferable option is that the food is used to feed animals. Did you know, 36% of the world’s crop calories are fed to animals? By diverting more and more food waste towards livestock farms, these crops could be used to feed humans instead – an estimated 4 billion of them!

Finally, when no other option is suitable, food waste can be recycled at an anaerobic digestion plant. Here, organic materials will be broken down by microorganisms in the absence of oxygen. The resulting methane is collected and used to produce electricity for the National Grid, and the remaining, nutrient-rich liquid is pasteurised and turned into fertiliser.

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Benefits of Recycling Food Waste

Mitigating the negative impact of food waste is reason enough to start recycling your business’ food waste. However, there are a host of other advantages.

Saves Money

For most businesses, protecting that bottom line is always on the agenda! By recycling your food waste, you’ll limit the amount of general waste you are producing and sending to landfill, avoiding hefty taxes.

Just as important, by assessing your business and working out how to limit food waste in the first place, you will create a highly efficient supply chain.

See more: How Can Manufacturers Reduce Waste?

Cut Your Carbon Footprint

As we have discussed, when food waste ends up in landfill, it breaks down and releases methane. This gas contributes to the greenhouse effect, trapping the sun’s heat in the atmosphere and causing the planet to grow dangerously warmer. To limit global warming, it’s imperative that everyone tries to make a difference in whatever way they can. By cutting down your food waste and disposing of any that is unavoidable in a responsible way, you will minimise the carbon footprint of your business.

Zero Waste to Landfill – What Does it Mean? >

Support Local Community

Waste is something that isn’t needed, but food is needed by many. Sending your business’ edible excess food to homeless shelters, food banks, and other charities is a great way to fulfil your social responsibility as a business. Of course, these organisations will only accept food that is still fit for consumption, though expired ‘best before’ dates are often okay – it’s the ‘use by’ dates you need to watch! Diverting this food away from landfill means you will be actively making a difference in your area, supporting your local community, and feeding the hungry.

Helps You Meet Legal Obligations

As a business, you have a legal duty of care to minimise your waste, and deal responsibly with any that is unavoidable. Implementing a food waste recycling system in your business is a great way to make sure you are meeting these obligations and maintaining your legal compliance.

See more: The Ultimate Guide to Waste Management

Can Generate Renewable Energy

During the anaerobic digestion process, food breaks down and generates methane gas, just like it does in landfill. However, at a specialist anaerobic digestion plant, this gas is securely captured and transformed into green electricity. Instead of contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, your business will be generating renewable energy through its waste!

Boosts Business Reputation

If the environmental, economic, and social benefits of food waste recycling aren’t enough, then what about your business’ reputation? Implementing a food waste recycling strategy as part of large scale environmental initiatives across your organisation is a great way to appeal to your clients’ ethical consciousnesses. It is purported that one third of UK consumers want to shop responsibly. Whatever the exact figures are, clearly more and more people are thinking about business impact when they make purchasing decisions. Boosting your business’ eco-credentials – whatever the sector – can be a great marketing tool to leverage, ensuring you are the obvious choice for your target audience.

Sustainable Food Waste Recycling with SL Recycling

SL Recycling is passionate about helping businesses discover the benefits of sustainable waste management. From our beginnings in the scrap industry to our market leading position now as a one-stop-shop for business waste management, we’ve always had the environment in mind. We provide comprehensive waste management services with clear paper trails, high standards of customer service, and transparent, cost-effective pricing structures.

To learn more about what SL Recycling could do for your business, contact our friendly team!

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