The average UK business is spending over £50,000 every year on sending food waste to landfill, however, recycling food waste could save food retail businesses up to £7,000 a year, according to new research.
Despite this, only half (56%) of food retailers and convenience stores say that they recycle food waste in order to minimise financial losses and only a quarter (24%) recycle food waste to avoid costly fines.
However, new legislation due to land in 2024, is expected to mandate that any business producing over 5kg of food waste will need to separate and recycle its waste through a registered food waste carrier service.
Failure to comply could put food retail businesses at risk of potentially hefty financial penalties-with fixed penalty notices starting from £300.
The legislation is due to be introduced by both DEFRA and the Welsh Government, who are expected to enact the provisions of the Environment Act 2021, and thereby make the separation of food waste from other waste streams a requirement.
However, while the research suggests that food retailers and convenience stores are not aware of the potential costs that sending food waste to landfill could incur, it did reveal that food retailers are conscious of the indirect financial implications.
Almost two thirds said they recycle food waste as a response to public sentiment and consumer demand and over a third (38%) of respondents cited that recycling food waste helps them adhere to hygiene standards.
Grant Keenan, managing director at Keenan Recycling, who conducted the research, said: “We know the food retail sector wants to implement more sustainable methods of working, but they are facing a lot of other pressures right now. As well as this, there are many misconceptions around the true cost of food waste recycling and the ease of employing food waste recycling into business processes.
“Our roundtable with key industry experts, including representatives from the food retail industry, highlighted this. Businesses revealed that they are worried about the upfront costs involved in introducing new processes- such as investing in new bins, onboarding new food waste providers and providing training for staff.
“However, food waste collectors can support with all of this, and special machines, like food de-packagers, can make the transition to new processes even simpler. On top of this, short term investment in proper food waste management systems will bring financial benefits in the mid to long term. In fact, food retailers and convenience stores could see themselves saving thousands each year. By looking at how to implement new processes now, businesses can ensure that there is time to support staff through the change and iron out any teething problems ahead of the incoming laws.”