InSinkErator response to Defra consultation on Waste Prevention 

29 April 2013

InSinkErator actively supports food waste prevention and our marketing messages consistently reflect this concern. The User Instructions that accompany each Food Waste Disposer include pointers on avoiding food waste – over-buying and preparing too much. Our website and the website of AMDEA our trade association, dedicated to the FWD category, alert to waste avoidance This year InSinkErator conducted a national consumer survey on quantities and types of food most commonly thrown away in UK homes and we are publicising the fairly staggering results in an on-going press campaign. A sample of coverage:
Where food waste cannot be prevented, in-sink food waste disposers (FWDs) aid recycling and recovery of value, efficiently using existing infrastructure and reducing the need for collection vehicle emissions. They grind practically all food waste to minute particles that are easily carried away by the wastewater system, directly to wastewater treatment and increasingly anaerobic digestion (AD) plants. Here valuable soil improver and biogas are extracted from this waste stream which due to its wet, sticky, putrescible nature, is one of the most difficult to manage. FWDs help to conserve soil organic matter and complete nutrient cycles, they also help to conserve other crucial finite resources, such as phosphates.
FWDs are a convenient and user friendly solution for householders, particularly in flatted properties and densely populated urban environments. Their ease of use, in the kitchen where food is prepared, encourages citizens to capture far more of this waste stream. In these urban areas, w here space is at a premium, this early separation can also protect dry recyclates from food waste contamination and thus conserve their recovery value. Research in Japan has found that removing food waste at source unlocks the potential for recycling other fractions1


Q1. Do you have evidence or case studies where the benefits from managing material resources more efficiently have been measurably achieved? Please provide examples.

In 2005, Herefordshire and Worcestershire Councils subsidised the purchase of FWDs by residents following a study that concluded that using disposers was a cost-effective, convenient and hygienic means of diverting kitchen food waste from landfills2.
While in 1997 Surahammar in Sweden, chose to offer its citizens differential charges for waste collection plus a bring system for cardboard, glass, metal and plastic (i.e. drop-off locations to which residents take these materials). The policy has been effective in that the tonnage of waste to landfill from the municipality has decreased from 3600 tonnes/year in 1996 to 1400 tonnes/year in 2007. Householders who purchased, used and maintained their own authorised compost bins paid nothing for food waste collection because, in effect, they made no demand on Surahammars Kommunal Teknik AB (SKT). The highest charge was for households that chose kerbside collection of source-segregated BMW; householders were provided with an additional wheeled bin that was collected
weekly or twice a week in hot weather. The third option was an 8-year contract to lease an in-sink food waste disposer (FWD) from SKT. SKT operates the solid waste, water supply, wastewater, wood-fired electricity generation and district heating in Surahammar Kommune and is a company wholly owned by the municipality. Over the 10 years 50% of households chose the FWD option and it offered a unique chance to conduct a controlled study over a decade. In addition to reducing landfill by 2200 tonnes/year, there was no increase in water usage, sewer blockages, nor accumulation of solids, fat oil and grease, hydrogen sulphide or corrosion. There also was no change in wastewater treatment cost, however FWD usage increased biogas production by 46%.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is currently initiating a series of pilot studies on the use of 300 FWDs to assist waste and recycling programmes in new-build properties in areas where separate kerbside collection is not operated4. The trials form part of the LGA’s Productivity Programme, which aims to assist local authorities to examine innovation as a means to achieve sustainable and financially viable management solutions. The first stage of the LGA’s FWD project was completed at the end of 2012 with the publication of a review of all previous pertinent research on FWD usage, worldwide.
Similarly the Danish Water and Wastewater Association (DANVA) and Danish municipalities recently commissioned a study by a leading Danish engineering consultancy5. Denmark has banned landfill of municipal biowaste since 1997, but is now re-examining FWDs as it seeks to increase biogas production. The DANVA Report contains previously undocumented operational experience from municipalities and drew various positive conclusions. Among other aspects it reported that the amount of refuse can be reduced by 20-30% with fewer odour problems, better hygiene for collection workers and possibility of less frequent collection. As a result of the study, Odense, Denmark’s third largest city, announced that it will reverse earlier policy and permit FWD installations.

Q2. Do you agree/disagree with the priority areas identified?

We agree that domestic food waste should be a priority given its potential value as a source of biogas and soil improver. However as previously stated this is a difficult waste stream that waste managers already note can contaminate other valuable recyclates. It should also be noted that relying solely on kerbside collection to capture this waste stream overlooks a significant segment of society that cannot or will not separate and store its waste for collection. Food waste disposers offer an efficient and hygienic alternative for the most challenging environments: high-rise or flatted properties, residences in commercial streets or terraced urban homes where storage space is a problem. The elderly or infirm may also face difficulty in storing a week’s food waste and carrying it to a communal bin, rubbish chute or the street.
With regard to WEEE, as manufacturers committed to stringent quality control of our in-sink electrical appliances we have deep safety concerns regarding the re-use or re-furbishing of our products by unknown or under-qualified individuals. In the UK we have an agreement with an approved service centre and we would not promote re-use or second hand sales. FWDs have a fairly long lifespan of 8 -10 years and in many cases we know they last at least 12. Primarily made of metal, at end of life they are around 95% recyclable and correct WEEE compliant disposal to recover this value is the only course of action that we would support.