Foodservice Footprint bins-2 Standard waste collections for businesses by 2025 Out of Home News Analysis Waste

Standard waste collections for businesses by 2025

New government plans will see millions of businesses required to separate their waste for recycling, including food waste. By Nick Hughes.

Councils and businesses across England will be required to recycle a standardised set of packaging materials under government plans to drive up recycling rates.

Long-awaited proposals for more consistent kerbside and business collections were finally published by Defra over the weekend. All local authorities in England, as well as non-household municipal premises such as businesses, schools and hospitals, must collect the same waste streams for recycling including paper and card, plastic, glass and metal.

Collection of food waste is also being made mandatory under the new regime. Waste collection authorities in England must arrange a weekly collection of food waste for recycling or composting from households. Businesses too must arrange to have food waste collected separately, albeit they are not required to have weekly collections.

The new rules do not apply to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which have their own arrangements.

The government said the aim was to boost recycling rates in England which have plateaued at around 42% to 44%. It added that an improved recycling system would support investment in domestic reprocessing facilities, creating UK jobs and increasing resource security.

Co-mingling – whereby dry mixed recyclable materials are collected together – will be permitted to prevent a proliferation of different bins.

A requirement for mandatory recyclability labelling on packaging will also be introduced as part of extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging to help make clear what can and cannot be recycled.

“We have listened to councils and come up with a system that will increase recycling in a way that does not clutter our pavements with numerous bins and smelly food waste collections for weeks, making recycling simpler and more effective,” said environment minister Rebecca Pow.

The announcement received a broadly positive response from charities and business representatives, although environmental campaigners warned it wouldn’t fix a fundamentally broken system.

 “It’s encouraging that more than 2.2 million businesses will now be required to separate their waste for recycling,” said Claire Shrewsbury, director of insights and innovation at Wrap.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said “simplifying recycling in this way will make it far easier for hospitality businesses to recycle even more and ensure we’re being as sustainable as possible”.

The waste industry also responded favourably. The announcement was “a welcome step forward to improve the quantity and quality of material that we process”, said Gavin Graveson, senior executive vice president Northern Europe zone at waste management company Veolia. “We now need to quicken the pace of UK recycling rates by ensuring that packaging is designed to be reused, repaired or recycled.”

Greenpeace however criticised the plans. “The government is fiddling with a system that’s fundamentally broken,” Nina Schrank from the campaign group told BBC News. “The government needs to get serious and back measures to cut the amount of plastic packaging we produce as a country in the first place.”

Under the new plans, cartons for food, drink and other liquids, including aseptic and chilled cartons, will be included in the plastic recyclable waste stream to be collected from households and businesses.

The government also intends to include plastic film packaging and plastic bags made of mono-PE, mono-PP and mixed polyolefins PE and PP in the plastic recyclable waste stream.

However biodegradable and compostable plastic packaging materials will not need to be collected separately with the government citing industry concerns over suitability for recycling as highlighted in its call for evidence on standards for biodegradable, compostable and bio-based plastics.

The secretary of state has the power to add to the materials in each waste stream in the future once there is confidence that the materials are recyclable.

Businesses with 10 or more full time equivalent employees will have to begin separating both dry recyclable and food waste streams for collection by March 31st 2025 with recyclable plastic film to be collected by March 31st 2027.

Local authorities will have an extra year – until March 31st 2026 – to implement the new rules on dry recyclables and food waste although the deadline for recyclable plastic film is the same as for businesses. There are some exceptions for councils tied in to long-term food waste disposal contracts.

The government said its preference is for food waste to be collected for treatment by anaerobic digestion and used to generate bio-fuel and digestate to help create a more circular economy.