The 25-year environment plan, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), calls for “good nutrient management practices” in soil management and pledges to create “meaningful metrics” to assess soil improvements and “develop cost-effective and innovative ways to monitor soil at farm and national level”. The AD industry can assist the management of soils by producing low-emission biofertiliser.
“The health of the UK’s soils is critical to allowing us to grow the food we need to feed our families” said Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA). “Defra’s aim to restore soil sustainability in England is an important step in the right direction, and the AD industry can play a key role in this through producing natural, low-emission biofertiliser in the form of digestate, which is high in vital nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium."
Despite the environment plan covering resource efficiency and waste, there were no new commitments on separate food waste collections, which as many as half of local authorities in England still do not offer to residents. AD plants recycle unavoidable and inedible food waste into renewable heat and power, low-carbon transport fuel, and biofertiliser, and have the potential to meet 30 percent of the UK’s domestic gas or electricity demand. Evidence from Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, which all have mandatory food waste collections, also shows that households and businesses that separate food waste tend to produce less waste due to greater awareness.
Morton added that despite identifying recycling food waste as a ‘key priority’ in the plan, Defra’s failure to roll out mandatory separate food waste collections in England is a missed opportunity to reduce food waste levels and allow AD plants to produce the renewable energy, transport fuel, and biofertilisers that England desperately needs.
European Union (EU) members have recently committed to mandatory separate collection of biowaste (i.e. food waste) by 2025 and the devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland have already rolled out such collections.