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The Simpler Recycling Plan: How Food Waste Collection Will Change

26th February 2024

The Department for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment (Defra) announced that, as part of its Simpler Recycling plan, all councils must implement food waste collections as of 2026. We explore what these changes mean and what your business needs to know.

Following the introduction of the Environmental Act in 2021, the UK government proposed new food waste legislation to reduce the amount of food waste in landfills by 2030.

This legislation means that all households and commercial businesses must change how they manage food waste to comply with the new laws.

If you’re a business owner, council worker, or an interested citizen, our brief guide covers everything you need to know about these new food waste regulations.

What Is the Simpler Recycling Plan?

The Simpler Recycling Plan is a set of reforms to how household and commercial bin collections will operate in the UK. It aims to crack down on waste carriers not following proper procedures, boosting recycling rates in the process.

The plan will offer a simplified approach to recycling in a bid to make it clearer to the British population what they can and can’t recycle in different UK regions.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said:

“Alongside weekly food waste collections, we are ending the postcode lottery of what you can put in your bin so that wherever you live in the country, you will be able to recycle the same products with confidence.”

By 2026, most English households will have weekly collections of food waste. This will prevent smelly food waste from being left for weeks without collecting. At the same time, it will stop there being too many bin collections in some areas of the UK.

The UK government is suggesting exemptions that will ensure waste collectors can collect dry recyclables and organic waste together, reducing the number of bins needed.

According to the Prime Minister, these new plans will provide a more convenient system that ensures local authorities collect all recyclable waste streams. 

Who Is Affected by the New Food Waste Legislation?

The new food waste regulations will affect any household or commercial site that generates food waste across England.

This includes organisations in the following sectors: retail, hospitality, business, facilities management, education, and healthcare.

The New Food Waste Regulations Explained

The legislation means that all English local authorities must collect the same recyclable waste streams (paper and card, plastic, glass, metal, food waste, and garden waste).

All other municipal premises, including businesses, schools, and hospitals, must arrange to have the same recyclable waste streams (except garden waste) collected. In addition, they need to organise and present their waste according to these new guidelines.

Local authorities will collect non-recyclable waste at least every fortnight, as a minimum backstop. And as we mentioned earlier, there will be weekly food waste collections.

It’s important to note that the proposal is subject to consultation with local councils and authorities. As such, it will be confirmed in the statutory guidance to come.

The UK government is confident that the system will create jobs in the UK and increase resource security.

Furthermore, less food waste in our landfills will reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gases and help us achieve our Net Zero strategy target.

By collecting food waste separately, we can reprocess it to create organic fertilisers and biogases that generate electricity. 

What Does This Mean for Product Labelling? 

The Simpler Recycling Plan means that manufacturers can design packaging safe in the knowledge that it can be recycled anywhere across the nation. 

As a result, manufacturers can include more recycled materials in their packaging.

The government had this to say about the plan: 

“We want to make it easier for people to do the right thing, maximise use, minimise waste and drive up recycling rates.”

As a result of these reforms, we will also see new mandatory recyclability labelling on packaging. 

These requirements will form part of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging and aim to make it easier for consumers to know what can and cannot be recycled.

Get in touch to discuss the best sustainable label options for your business. 

What Does My Business Need to Do to Comply?

Under the new legislation, your organisation will need to do the following:

  • Segregate food waste to ensure it’s not mixed in with general or other recyclable waste streams
  • Separate food waste for collection and send it to be recycled (composting or anaerobic digestion)
  • Your site cannot send food waste with general waste to landfills or incineration

The new reforms will impact organisations differently, depending on their existing waste segregation practices.

For instance, if you already separate and recycle food waste, you will simply need to evaluate your current practices to ensure they align with the new legislation.

Reasons for the New Plan

Several factors have led to these new reforms.

While household recycling rates in England have risen exponentially, they seem to have reached a plateau in recent years.

Local councils and residents have also voiced concerns about too many bins on the streets. As such, the Environment Act 2021 will aim to address this issue by increasing recycling rates and condensing the number of bins needed.

According to Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, the reforms will make recycling easier and more effective: 

“Our ambitious plans will help every household, business, school and hospital in the country to recycle more. 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.”

The Plan will look to offer exemptions that allow English councils to offer just three waste containers for all dry recycling, food waste, and non-recyclable waste. Councils will also offer an optional garden waste collection.

In short, the Simpler Recycling Plan will give local authorities the flexibility to collect recyclable waste in the way that best serves their residents. 

Reactions to The New Food Collection Plan

Several councils across England have expressed their concern over the new Plan.

For instance, Sheffield City Council recently voted to request a delay in food waste contractions until 2038, when its contract with Veolia is up.

The council estimates that switching would cost £3 million.

Instead, councillor Townrow suggested requesting the national government’s approval for a transitional period. 

Speaking about the proposal, he stated:

“It doesn’t mean we have to wait until 2038 to implement the service but we’ll have an informed decision based on what government is saying at the time in terms of what funding is available so we can then decide when is best to introduce the service.”


He does, however, acknowledge that the delay could pose challenges for Sheffield residents eagerly awaiting the improved recycling options.

Get in Touch

The Simpler Recycling Plan is a positive step forward for the UK, providing a more streamlined and environmental food waste collection system. However, this new legislation will also lead to big changes in how many businesses organise their waste and label products.

To find out how this could impact your business, speak to the Dura-ID team today.