The government should ban all food leftovers from landfill by the end of the decade to boost technology which can turn it into energy, a study from thinktank CentreForum suggested on Tuesday.
Councils should be given financial support to help them bring in separate food waste collections for households and businesses to ensure a steady supply of organic waste for anaerobic digestion, a renewable power source.
The process could create enough biogas from green waste and purpose-grown crops to power more than 2.5m UK homes by 2020, the report said.
But barriers to increasing energy from anaerobic digestion need to be removed if the technology is to be scaled up significantly from current levels where it produces enough energy to power 300,000 homes, the report found.
Currently, getting an anaerobic digestion scheme going was like "trying to win a cycle race with the brakes on," the report's authors warned.
Anaerobic digestion plants use micro-organisms to break down organic material without oxygen to create biogas that can be burned to produce renewable energy or injected directly into the gas grid.
But the study said the schemes often struggle to secure long-term contracts to ensure supplies of the feedstock such as food waste.
The report said that only 13% of homes in England had separate food waste collections, compared with 82% of households in Wales.
A ban on food waste going to landfill would force local authorities to collect leftovers separately from households and businesses, which would provide the supplies needed for anaerobic digestion.
Such a move is also necessary because the UK will run out of new landfill sites by 2020 and the UK has to meet EU rules to stop biodegradable waste going into landfill by the end of the decade.
Local authorities should be given financial support to invest in the more expensive vehicles needed to collect the food waste collections.
Alternatively, they should be able to access funding, which could be raised from planned increases in the taxes put on sending rubbish to landfill, through schemes similar to the current £250m government programme aimed at encouraging a return to weekly bin collections.
The report also said the industry body needed to produce a guide on how to secure financing, and that developers need more certainty on government support for anaerobic digestion.
It said concerns about growing crops specifically for anaerobic digestion, including fears that they could compromise UK food security and divert incentives away from waste schemes, did not stand up to scrutiny.
Changing regulations to make it easier to inject biogas into the gas grid, which is the most efficient use of the gas, would also boost the sector.
The market for "digestate", the leftover organic material from anaerobic digestion which can be used as fertiliser for crops, also needs to be developed.
The report's co-author Quentin Maxwell-Jackson said: "Anaerobic digestion technology has so many clear advantages over other waste treatment and energy generation options that it is very surprising it has not taken off in a big way yet in the UK."
Co-author Thomas Brooks added: "There are some simple things government can do to release the brakes on anaerobic digestion.
"For instance, simply banning organic waste to landfill in England, as they are already planning to do in Scotland, would give anaerobic digestion a huge boost."
The independent report will be published this week at a conference held by the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA), which funded the study.Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/03/ban-food-waste-landfill