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Expert warns of hefty fines if businesses don’t recycle food waste

Businesses and other large organisations face hefty fines if they don’t start recycling their food waste on New Year’s Day, an industry expert has warned.

Published: December 17, 2015

Grant Keenan, managing director at Keenan Recycling, has highlighted a change in the law being introduced on 1 January 2016.

Any company or organisation producing more than 5kg of food waste each week will have to separate out their leftovers and out of date items and recycle them instead of dumping them in their wheelie bin to be sent to landfill.

The previous threshold stood at 50kg, meaning that many more cafes, hotels, restaurants and retailers are poised to be caught up in the new legislation.

If businesses don’t start recycling their food waste then the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency can hit them with an on-the-spot fine of £300, while repeat offenders face penalties of up to £10,000.

Mr Keenan said: “These are serious fines and they will certainly make employers think twice before letting their staff chuck food waste into the bin.

“The fines won’t be the only drain on a company’s bottom line though – once business owners realise how much food they’re wasting each week then they’ll soon start to look at how much they’re ordering, which is the Scottish Government’s intention.”

Zero Waste Scotland, the organisation setup to deliver the Scottish Government’s Zero Waste Plan, estimates that businesses could save £192 million a year by reducing their food waste.

Mr Keenan said: “As well as saving companies money, the new regulations will also help to tackle climate change. When food breaks down, it releases a gas called methane, which has the potential to retain 21 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

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“By reducing food waste, the Scottish Government aims to prevent the equivalent of 27 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere – that would have the same effect as taking 166,000 cars off our roads.”

He added: “Recycling food waste can also have a double environmental benefit – the leftovers that we collect from our customers in the Central Belt are fed into an anaerobic digester, inside which they are broken down by bacteria to produce biogas. That biogas can then be used to generate green electricity.

“In Aberdeenshire, we also turn food waste into compost that gives farmers an alternative to expensive artificial fertilisers.”

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment Richard Lochhead said: “All businesses need to think carefully about what they’re doing with their food waste – even more so from 1 January when all businesses producing more than 5kg of food waste per week will be required to collect it separately, in line with our Waste Regulations.

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“It will no longer be acceptable to put food waste in residual waste bins, so now is the time to think about the amount of food waste being produced and how it can be reduced – helping to save businesses money. Collecting food waste separately avoids food going into landfill where it emits harmful methane emissions; and separately collected food waste can be put to good use through processes such as composting or anaerobic digestion. I recently set out my intention to introduce a food waste reduction target Scotland, so there is no time like the present to start making changes.”

Keenan Recycling, which has its head office at New Deer in Aberdeenshire, launched its commercial food waste collection service in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire in 2010 and now processes more than 60,000 tonnes of waste each year.

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