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Coronavirus Impacts on Food Waste Arriving at Biogas Plants – Panic Buying

The coronavirus is undoubtedly impacting on the volume and characteristics of food waste arriving at Biogas Plants, and one source will be the result of panic buying. However, the scale of the increase in food waste is hard to judge.

We were interested to read a recent Landia Press Release on waste food (possibly of avalanche proportions) being received as a result of UK panic buying in the weeks before the UK lockdown which officially began on 23 March 2020.

We wondered whether there was really going to be that much waste food arriving at UK biogas plants. The Landia Press Release follows. But first, here is what we found:

The Scale of UK Food Stockpiling Ahead of the UK Coronavirus Lock Down

On 21 Mar 2020, the Sun reported that:

“Brits have more than £1 billion worth of food stockpiled in their homes after panic buying over the coronavirus, the country's top retail official said today. Officials told Brits today to stop stockpiling and to think of others after heartbreaking images showed how the elderly and NHS staff were struggling to shop.”

Like many places across the world, the United Kingdom has struggled to keep store shelves stocked as fears over the coronavirus gave way to panic buying. This led many stores to place limits on items, as well as dedicate certain hours to the elderly and healthcare workers.

And now, it appears that much of the food that people bought could be going to waste.

Media News About Stockpiled Food Going to Waste

Ajit Singh Atwal, a Councillor for Derby in the United Kingdom, recently took to Twitter to share photos of bins filled with loaves of bread, fish cakes, chicken, and fruit. (See the image here.)

Coronavirus Impacts on Food Waste - Image of food waste sue to coronavirus stockpiling - some say.
This waste food may more the result of students needing to catch flights home at short notice than wasted stockpiled food, bought during periods of panic buying.

The post has since attracted nearly 5,000 retweets and over 900 comments.

However, as Metro points out, the images don't appear to have been taken in Derby.

“I'm highlighting a countrywide issue – never said they were bins in Derby,”

Atwal told one commenter.

Instead, the Coventry Telegraph seems to believe that the bins belong to international students who had “just hours to leave the city during the chaotic early phases of the global Covid-19 pandemic.” The Telegraph reports that many students were forced to dump their food as they got flights home. via

Our View on This:

Be your own judge as to the extent of panic stockpiling and how much of that food may be wasted and arrive at biogas plants. However, such food waste will certainly be joined with food waste from other sources, such as unusable catering industry food, due to the disruption of the UK food supply chain.

The previously mentioned Press Release follows:

Landia Press Release (27 Mar 2020)

Biogas/ AD plant equipment to be tested by avalanche of food waste from panic-buying?

AD/ Biogas operators will be very soon be looking to their pumps and ancillary equipment for maximum performance – as an avalanche of food waste heads their way.

Panic buying from those scared by Coronavirus is going to see vast volumes of unused food products heading to AD/biogas plants – which might pose problems for those without the best equipment – according to leading pump manufacturer, Landia.

“The industry needs feedstock”,

said Landia’s Howard Burton,

“but as panic buyers begin to regret overloading their supermarket trolleys with too many perishables, the sudden rush of food waste may arrive at AD plants at an even bigger rate than the post-Christmas wave of unwanted goods”.

Burton pointed out that experienced industry operators such as Cannington Bio Energy are always geared up for the huge variances of food waste, but others who perhaps haven’t invested in top quality pumps, may see an adverse effect on their process – potentially with equipment that becomes blocked, or later with digesters that get weighed down with so much packaging waste grit and plastics that biogas yields are adversely affected.

“It’s a tough industry where the learning never stops”,

continued Burton,

“but at this extremely testing time for the world, some AD/Biogas operators who use food waste as feedstock are going to find it very difficult to keep everything as balanced as possible to manage their processes. The torrent of food waste from panic buying isn’t far away”.

He added:

“The Chopper Pump, which Landia invented 70 years ago, is a tried and tested example of equipment that takes massive punishment at AD/Biogas plants, but keeps on working, without blockages. Lesser pumps, which aren’t really suited to the industry may not be able to cope with what’s ahead soon”.

Landia UK +44 (0) 1948 661 200

Press Release Ends

We thought it interesting to consider the very similar problems being experienced in North America, as curated below:

The Effect of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Food Waste in the US

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic is leading the food industry and regulators to change policies as they grapple with empty shelves, a glut of fresh produce and milk, and sudden shifts in consumer buying habits.

The problem isn't a shortage of food and commodities. If anything, food waste is becoming a bigger issue as traditionally big, bulk buyers — like college dorms and restaurant chains — suddenly stop receiving deliveries.

As a result, millions of gallons of milk are being dumped, and farmers have no alternative but to turn fresh vegetables into mulch. via

San Francisco is already seeing more household food waste.

“People are cooking more at home,”

Robert Reed, who works with the city’s waste management company Recology, told Nat Geo.

“Tonnages of food scraps from single-family homes and apartments are up.”

In short, the food industry, like everything in our lives, has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. And when it comes to perishable items like food, uncertainty can lead to waste. Unfortunately, on a large scale, there’s little most of us can do about it. via

The biggest source of food waste in America is households, where produce wilts, milk spoils, and leftovers lurk at the back of the fridge until they are tossed. Now, anxious consumers who have been hoarding food may discover there's no way they can eat everything they've bought.

Says Frank Franciosi, of the U.S. Composting Council,

“We may see municipal curbside collection of food waste go up as more people eat in or take out.”


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  1. The pandemic has so many negative effects on society. I have been documenting many of these and will also dd this one. Thanks.

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