How waste companies can do more to combat food waste

Written by: Claire Keenan | Published:
Keenan Recycling partners with FareShare

In the UK there is a lot still to be done to tackle food waste and get more people on board – both at home and at work.

Legislation exists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a bid to reduce the amount of food that we are wasting but England is yet to follow suit. This therefore represents an opportunity for businesses to expand and show the difference that can be made by recycling food rather than sending it to landfill.

Headquartered in Turriff, Aberdeenshire, Keenan Recycling is one of Scotland’s largest organic waste management firms, operating a garden and food waste collection service across Scotland and the north-east of England. The firm works with a range of businesses dealing with food; from university sites and manufacturers to hospitality and leisure venues.

The family business, which launched as a garden waste composting company in 2001, has since grown to more than 90 members of staff at its sites in both Scotland and England. In 2015 the firm secured a £2.2 million Business Growth Fund investment that saw it expand its services into Scotland’s central belt and kick-start plans to grow further across the UK.

Boasting Europe’s largest vertical composting unit at its New Deer headquarters, an eight-acre site in Linwood and its recent expansion into England, Keenan Recycling is currently processing more than 20,000 tonnes of food waste, 30,000 tonnes of co-mingled waste (food and green waste together), 30,000 tonnes of green waste and 5,000 tonnes of wood each year.

Garden waste in Scotland is taken to the plant in New Deer where it can be turned into premium compost, whereas food waste is taken to an anaerobic digester where it can be made into biofuel used for heat and power.

The north-east of England is Keenan Recycling’s latest venture, offering a commercial food waste collection service to businesses and other waste management firms across the region. When the food has been collected it is taken to High Hedley Biogas Plant in County Durham where it is put through an anaerobic digester. Biogas is produced and stored to create combined heat and power, which heats our homes, provides electricity and produces biomethane as vehicle fuel. ­­

WRAP predicts food waste costs the global economy more than $400 billion each year and contributes 7% of all global greenhouse gases annually. By recycling food waste and making changes to reduce food waste altogether the global economy could save $300 billion and a significant contribution can be made to help tackle climate change.

It’s this conversation that will hopefully start to educate UK businesses on the importance of considering food waste recycling – both financially for the business and the environmental impacts.

Grant Keenan, managing director of Keenan Recycling, says that it’s important to think about the food you are wasting and the benefits that come with cutting back and recycling properly.

“The issue of food waste has been in the background for many years but it’s only recently that people have really started to take notice. As a nation we have finally become conscious of the effect that plastic has on our environment thanks to thought-provoking programmes like Blue Planet.

“We know that it isn’t an easy task to change customer behaviour and it’s an education process to show businesses that they can save money by simply separating out their food from general waste. It is our overall aim to expand across the UK and continue to help businesses start to make a real difference both financially and for the environment.”

In the UK alone 10 million tonnes of food, the equivalent of more than £20 billion, is wasted each year within households and businesses. According to the government’s resources and waste strategy the aim is to reduce food waste and meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal to halve global food waste at consumer and retail levels by 2030.

Keenan adds: “The government is aiming for English councils to provide weekly food waste collection by 2023, which is a huge step in the right direction, but simple changes can be made now so it isn’t such a huge task once the time comes.

“It would be brilliant to see similar legislation to Scotland and Wales also come into play in England so that businesses are aware, because at the moment many aren’t. As well as helping businesses understand the food they waste, we can go into commercial kitchens and train staff to segment waste correctly and decide if it is actually waste at all.

“We also work with FareShare, a UK charity that tackles food waste by partnering with supermarkets to deliver unwanted produce to those in need nationally. This ensures anything they can’t sell is recycled properly rather than going to landfill.”

With ambitions to grow across the whole of the UK in the next three years, Keenan Recycling is on a journey to reduce food waste and hopes to see as many people and businesses get involved as possible.

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