Large-scale food composting for Lewes businesses such as restaurants and pubs
Project started: October 2007
Contact: Julia Waterlow
This is a project of the Waste Group, who identified food waste as one of the main waste streams that was not being tackled by the authorities. Tons of food and other compostable waste from Lewes restaurants, pubs, hotels and cafes is being sent to landfill. The waste group started by visiting a rocket composter being used by ELCRP in Hackney. The rocket composter is a large metal container which composts waste food of all kinds using a small amount of additional heat to bring the mixture up to a high temperature to kill bad bacteria. The end result is compost which then needs an additional period to complete rotting down after which it is safe to use.
The Waste Group approached Furniture Now (who provide the district's recycling service) to see if they would be interested in taking the project forward. It was decided subsequently to talk to the Environment Department of East Sussex County council who were very keen on the idea. TTL did some initial research interviewing businesses in Lewes to gauge interest and talk to them about barriers to using the proposed scheme. Furniture Now and ESCC prepared a bid for EU funding for a trial rocket composter. What with the difficulties of the EU bid and long discussions with Defra about the movement of food waste, it was some time before funding and approvals came through. In late 2009 the rocket was installed in part of the old school adjacent to County Hall where there was space outside for containers in which the compost could mature. For the first 6 months the rocket was trialled using food waste from County Hall and in the summer of 2010 local businesses were approached to see if they would be interested. At present two large hotels and one or two other shops are using the rocket, with their food waste being collected by Furniture Now. At present this is a free service owing to the EU funding. The rocket is also now being used to capacity. The future is uncertain once EU funding finishes due to the difficulties of making the project viable because of the costs of collection.