Food waste can be recycled into useful resources with organics recycling. There are two main processes used to recycle food waste:
Composting is a familiar concept – with microbes, moisture and warmth, organic matter can break down naturally into nutrient-rich fertiliser. To make sure that all types of food waste can break down quickly and successfully, the organics recycling industry uses in-vessel composting (IVC). This is essentially an enclosed compost heap with very well-controlled levels of microbes, moisture and warmth.
Food waste, often mixed with garden waste and used compostable packaging, is shredded to increase the surface area. It is held inside an enclosed composting vessel for around 2 to 4 weeks. During this time the conditions within the container are carefully controlled. Temperature is particularly important, as high temperatures are needed to ensure any pathogens in the decaying food are destroyed. The resultant material is matured in piles for several weeks before being screened for contaminants or larger pieces. The final result is nutrient-rich fertiliser which is a valuable can be used to improve soil and growing plants.
Anaerobic digestion (AD) uses micro-organisms to break down food waste in the absence of oxygen. This process produces biogas, a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide which can be used to produce heat, electricity or transport fuels. It also creates bio-fertiliser which can be used in farming as a natural fertiliser.
Did You Know?
In 2009, enough electricity was generated through the decomposition of organic waste to supply all the households in Leeds.
WRAP estimates that If avoidable food waste was prevented and unavoidable food waste diverted to anaerobic digestion (AD), the potential savings to industry would be more than £720 million a year.