Position Statement: the use of Food Waste Macerators

Food waste from commercial and domestic sources is a particularly challenging aspect of the introduction of a waste to resource management culture that will be central to a Zero Waste Scotland. The rise in the levels of waste food particularly from domestic sources is an excellent example of how increased waste production maybe linked to product presentation and consumer choice and habits. This is particularly concerning when food waste is disposed of to landfill where its organic nature will contribute to a range of problematic issues not least of which would be the production and emission of methane which, if uncontrolled, is a potent climate change gas. Reducing food waste at source and improving management of the residual will rely upon a range of key actions:

  • Reducing levels of food waste production through improved purchasing patterns and greater awareness of efficient preparation methods;
  • Introducing separate collection of food waste that promotes its potential to be treated through high quality recovery and recycling processes;
  • Ensuring that as much as possible segregated food waste is treated through Anaerobic Digestion to produce:
    •  biogas that can then be used to produce heat or electricity displacing fossil fuels and contributing towards Scotland’s renewable energy targets; and
    • an organic fertiliser and nutrient source which in turn can displace carbon intensive chemical fertilisers, contributing towards sustainable soil strategies and sustainable food production.

The Scottish Government’s proactive approach to this matter through the Zero Waste Plan proposal to make separate food waste collections from certain sources mandatory is welcomed. However, it is becoming apparent that the use of food waste maceration units could seriously undermine the plans to deal with this waste sustainably. As well as providing a means by which individuals or businesses could seek to circumvent their responsibility to both reduce and deal with their food waste arisings, increased use of food waste maceration units would also place an additional and unplanned loading on the sewerage system. Discussions with Scottish Water on this subject have confirmed their concerns in this regard. Indeed, in certain city areas, increased organic loading on the sewerage system that can be traced back to the use of maceration units is already presenting problems in terms of the ability of the sewerage system to function efficiently.

As such, the 2020 Climate Change Waste and Resources Sub-group would advocate that the use of food waste maceration units be banned in all but essential situations where issues such as infection control prohibit the separate collection of this material for treatment through high quality and sustainable waste treatment and recycling processes.

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