Field notes of the Urban Composter

Blog Series Part 3 – Chefs' Manifesto London Action Hub Spring Gathering

main imageWith an overall focus on the United Nations Food Systems Summit Action Track 2 - Shifting to sustainable consumption patterns, the Chefs' Manifesto London Action Hub Spring Gathering followed a 'menu of 5 courses.' The third course spotlighted another crucial aspect of a consumption pattern which requires a shift: food waste. Jo, Vicky and Sonia joined live from Omved Gardens to speak about: composting

Impediments to Progress

ImpedimentsSeveral impediments hinder progress on urban composting. The first one is educational: often, extremely low awareness exists around the need to recycle food waste. Councils have little communication with residents, who get information only upon request and actively seeking out solutions to their particular situations. Rather than getting a food waste caddy automatically, for example, London residents have to request them and face long wait times and other bureaucratic impediments. Psychological barriers also play an important role: people often find it unpleasant to separate out food waste, which due to lack of knowledge on how to properly separate and store, smells and does not look appealing. Finally, infrastructure hinders progress in this area: it is a common logistical challenge especially in cities, for recycling facilities to be implemented locally. Facilities need to be located close-by and collections done with green-energy vehicles. Furthermore, roads and flat / apartment complexes have been built a long time ago and designed without plans for recycling. In London, as only one city example, food waste for flats above shops cannot be collected due to hygiene regulations due to risks of pests. Councils also often have to take difficult costing decisions between budget allocations, and the costing per household is considerably higher when there are separate bin bags (normal, compostable, caddies etc.) that also call for separate collections. 

Positive Actions, Innovations and Inspiration

SolutionHowever, there is of course a plethora of positive action happening; innovations emerging and inspiring places calling when it comes to composting. An example of a catalyst for change on an international level is the EU Commission, which is asking countries to set up a wide food waste reduction target by 2030, which also leads to pressure on the UK in this regard. Local and national lockdowns have, moreover, led to people cooking more and wasting less. And many local programmes, groups and charities are providing people with portioning and planning tips (see resources on the right side of this page). Surplus food companies are increasing and having a positive effect on the local and municipal level. In terms of research, there are many promising technological solutions emerging, like recycling food into biogas, biofertilizer, renewable fuel and others.

Case Studies

Which regions are the front-runners on composting globally? Looking across the pond, Quebec in Canada is definitely a source of inspiration: the province has set up and is implementing a long term plan for composting as part of their stretch goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It provides composting services to all residents and importantly manages composting across all industries, businesses and institutions. Another candidate is Denmark with its Stop Wasting Food Movement and its active work on the implementation of SDG 12.3, or South Korea - who introduced smart bins and pay-as-you-recycle machines. 

Call to Action!

What does this mean for the UK? First and foremost, it means that progress on composting and reducing food waste is possible, and that on an individual level (request concrete solutions from local councils), on a municipal level (support charities and programmes) and on a national (put more pressure on the government) level, change can occur.

What does this mean for you and me? WormeryPractical home composting solutions are often close-by, easy and fun! Have you checked whether there is a community garden near you which has a compost system? Go ahead and ask if they can take your raw food scraps. Or have you considered setting up a wormery or a bokashi bin?

Check out the resources and composting toolkit on the right-hand-side and start your own composting journey to help drive progress on this essential part of the #zerowaste movement towards achieving SDG2, the Global Goals and good food for all!


Watch the full course below!