Did you know that up to 40% of household rubbish put out for collection in Portsmouth was food waste? That equates to over 5000 tons of food waste each year!
That simple insight is what made Portsmouth’s Lib Dem-led Council see food waste recycling as the single most impactful recycling initiative the city could do.
Once collected and processed separately from general domestic rubbish, food waste is easily converted into valuable bio-gas that can be sold for heating and into fertiliser that can be used to grow more food – in short, it enables a major move towards sustainability.
The first step in food waste recycling plan was to run a pilot in late 2019. This was to see if local residents liked the scheme in practice and to provide early feedback on any practical issues. Low-cost, low risk trials like this help ensure value-for-money in execution whilst a strong resident consultation process is always important to the Liberal Democrats.
Happily, most of the residents involved in the trial loved the scheme. The lockable plastic food cadies proved robust and easy to manage and collecting the food bins on the same day as the general rubbish collection, although in a different vehicle, made it easy to remember when to put the bins out.
Residents did ask for advice on what can/can’t go in the food waste caddy and this is an ongoing education process. (Basically, it’s yes to any food leftovers, raw or cooked; no to any packaging, liquids, animal faeces or garden waste!). But if you need more help or advice, you can always check on the dedicated food waste recycling page set up on the Council’s website.
Following on from the trials, the food waste recycling scheme was put into the Council Budget and scaled up in the first half of 2021 to an area covering a third of the city. This in turn was expanded to another 1/3rd of the city in Dec ’21. Finally, the plan is now to be cover the rest of the city this year. (Note: some blocks of flats and locations may still be excluded where the scheme is not possible for economic or operational reasons).
What’s next in recycling
But Lib Dem councillors want to do more. They believe the next investment to make to increase our recycling should be to bring the food waste re-processing in-house. A commercial business case is being prepared to build a £1.8Mn hi-tech, anaerobic bio-digester in Portsmouth, to be owned and run by the Council.
This facility would not only process Portsmouth’s own food waste at reduced cost to the council taxpayer but can also be a profitable service to sell to surrounding Councils and other food waste generators. Presently, only Lib Dem-controlled councils in Hampshire recycle food waste. However, that’s likely to change as the need to cut emissions becomes ever clearer and other councils catch up.
A council-owned bio-gas facility will also generate good local jobs plus create a valuable new income stream to pay for further new investments in recycling. This kind of practical and ambitious ‘green’ thinking is how the Lib Dem-led Council plans to help tackle the Climate Emergency more broadly.
The city’s efforts have been recognised with a Top Service Award for its work helping the environment and improving sustainability. Indeed, Portsmouth received a special ‘Green Council of the Year Award’ in 2021, beating 199 other entries.
What about other recycling and sustainability projects
There are many more things the Lib Dems believe we need or would want to do to make our city a greener and more sustainable place – planting more urban trees, recycling more types of plastics more widely, and making our transport system greener are good examples. But as practical people, as Lib Dems councillors know we know we must work within a budget the city can afford, so it takes time.
They do however have a long term strategic plan in place to increase our recycling rates and are steadily working towards a more circular, sustainable world.
Nevertheless, the Lib Dem’s ambition and commitment to do more is well summarised in the inspirational first paragraph of the Lib Dem constitution where it simply states says: “We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet…”.
We are therefore proud of the efforts Portsmouth, and our Lib Dem Councillors in particular, are making to play our part and to create a fairer, greener and more caring city - and you can be sure we will keep working to achieve it.
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