Blog: Tackling Food Waste to
Combat Climate Change
Jamie Dolan

08 October 2019

Across the UK around 7 million tonnes of food waste are thrown out every year – that’s a staggering amount. As well as money going down the drain, wasted food has a significant impact on our environment.

Just think of all the energy that’s wasted during the food production, processing and transportation stages for this waste to finally end up in the bin.  If food waste then ends up in a landfill, it will decompose and give off methane, a damaging greenhouse gas.

I recently came across a study that said if food waste was a country, it would come in third after China and the USA in terms of impact on global warming – a truly sobering thought as we enter Scotland’s annual Climate Week.

But whilst reducing emissions may seem like a daunting task, every one of us can help tackle climate change by making just a few simple changes.

For example better planning, storage and more creative ways of using leftovers will help to reduce the amount of food waste thrown out, and in turn reduce our carbon impact.

There will always be some food waste that’s simply unavoidable – think peelings, eggshells and teabags.  By putting this waste into caddies or separating it for collection, food waste can be transformed into new resources such as fertiliser or energy.

“Reducing emissions may seem like a daunting task, but every one of us can help tackle climate change by making just a few simple changes.”

Jamie Dolan
Operational Support Manager

At our anaerobic digestion plant near Cumbernauld, we’re capturing some of this waste to generate renewable heat and power.  Already we’ve recycled over 145,000 tonnes of food waste from local authorities and businesses and converted it into green energy – that’s the equivalent of powering 8,400 homes each year.

The good news is that in Scotland, food waste recycling is on the increase. Between 2013 and 2017, recycling rates increased by 40%, saving thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions thanks to new food waste legislation.

But we can’t remain complacent.  There is still room for improvement as too much food waste is continuing to end up in landfill and opportunities are being lost to generate more green energy.

Part of this is down to education and awareness.  In my role with Scottish Water Horizons, I get the chance to welcome students from primary, secondary and tertiary education to visit our anaerobic digestion facility so they can see first-hand the benefits of food waste recycling.

I think it’s important to teach our young people about waste reduction and recovery so that in the future they make conscious choices to help protect the environment we live in. Ultimately however, it’s all of our responsibility to work together to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change.  Just a few small steps can go a very long way.

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