Industry must work harder to overcome local objections to food waste disposal plants, warned Michael Gifford, business development director at energy and waste management consultancy Insource Energy.
Although manufacturers were keen to invest in anaerobic digestion (AD) plants as a means of reducing their environmental impact, they were struggling to get planning permission because of complaints from locals, he said. Speaking at the Resource Recovery Forum's Food, Consumers & Resource Efficiency conference, Gifford said: "Many people tend to think 'I don't want one of those in my village'. As an industry we could do a lot more to raise awareness of what these technologies are."
Jat Sahota, head of corporate responsibility at Sainsbury, added: "We have educated customers to see packaging as the great evil - it's what they get riled about. We need to make food waste as big an issue in customers' minds."
Peter Jones, director of external relations at waste services specialist Biffa was also frustrated at the length of time it is was taking for AD to become an accepted method of waste management. "We've lost 10 years of progression in this area because of timidity by the government and its use of landfill," he said. "There's no secret to the costs of AD plants - they're made of concrete so they're expensive to maintain."
Anaerobic digestors may not come cheap, but they can provide payback. In July, potato processor McCain launched an on-site covered anaerobic digester lagoon to manage waste water, as part of a £10M investment in renewable energy.
It is now expected to provide an additional 10% of the factory's annual electricity needs.