£300k saved turning food waste into electricity

Barnet Conservatives have saved taxpayers £300,000 a year by merging food waste into weekly black bin collections — which will then be used to make electricity.

The move was part of a raft of changes voted through Barnet Council’s Environment Committee yesterday evening [Tuesday 5th June] in line with the Conservatives’ election pledges to keep bin collections weekly while making services more efficient — saving a total of £830,000 a year.

Food waste from brown bin collections is currently used to make energy through anaerobic digestion, which is officially classed as recycling. From September, residents will be asked to dispose of food waste in their weekly black bin collections instead, which will then be used to make electricity.

However, as this method of energy production is not officially classed as recycling, Conservative Cllr Peter Zinkin requested that Council officers spend the next three months considering how residents who feel strongly about recycling may continue to do so.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Zinkin said: “We are having to make this change, but there is a huge amount of concern from those who take recycling very seriously that they are going to miss the opportunity to recycle their food waste.”

He added that officers should be “asked over the next few months to explore if there are any ways that those who wish to recycle their food waste can do so, taking into account the cost of that.”

Only around 25 per cent of households currently dispose of their food waste through brown bin collections which, at an additional cost to the Council of £300,000 per year, was unsustainable. Many residents cited foxes’ ability to break into the bins as a reason for not using the service, while others had hygiene concerns.

It was noted at the meeting that Barnet has the highest rate of recycling of any borough in the North West London Waste Authority, at 37 per cent of waste, and moving food waste into black bin collections would only reduce this by two percentage points — after which Barnet would still be the biggest recycler of the group. No waste collected by Barnet goes to landfill.

Other measures passed include the introduction of dedicated Christmas tree collections days throughout January during a six-week suspension of green garden waste collection. The suspension has been introduced to reflect a seasonal drop in demand for the service.