Stormont Assembly throws out 35 tonnes of unused food since collapse of devolution
THE Stormont Assembly has thrown out almost 35 tonnes of unused food - weighing the equivalent of around 35 small cars - since the collapse of devolution.
The amount of food waste thrown out had fallen year-on-year from 24 tonnes in 2011 to 13 tonnes in 2014, but has now jumped back up again.
The Assembly dumped more than 25 tonnes of food in 2015, rising to almost 38 tonnes the following year, both years when MLAs were in the chamber.
The suspension of the Assembly appears to have had little effect on the figures.
Almost 35 tonnes of unused food was thrown out in the period from January 2017, when the institutions collapsed, until March this year.
Despite a sharp reduction to less than a tonne per month towards the end of last year, the numbers shot back up again in the first three months of this year.
The figures cover a three year period from 2015, with the exception of three months when information was not available.
The details were released in response to an Assembly question by TUV leader and North Antrim MLA Jim Allister, who said it was "alarming" and "speaks to me of a lack of adequate oversight".
"It is disappointing that there is such a level of food waste and that there seems to have been a failure to match supply with need - particularly while the Assembly is not functioning," said Mr Allister.
"It should also be remembered that the catering contract generating this waste is already heavily subsidised by the taxpayer."
In 2015, The Irish News revealed that Stormont had disposed of more than 70 tonnes of food in the previous four years, despite MLAs and staff availing of subsidised catering services at a cost of almost a quarter of a million pounds annually.
An Assembly spokeswoman said: "While the Assembly is not currently sitting, the building and therefore the catering outlets continue to remain fully operational for use by Assembly staff, members and their staff, as well as for visiting groups and organisations.
"The members' dining room is also now open to the public on weekdays for lunch and afternoon tea."
None of the food waste is sent to landfill, nor is the Assembly able to donate any leftovers to charity.
"Food disposal is managed by the Department of Finance's current waste management contractor, who transports it to an organic waste treatment plant, where it is broken down to produce biogas and biofertiliser. No food waste is sent to landfill," added the Assembly spokeswoman.
"In relation to giving food to charity, the Assembly cannot do this as the majority of dishes prepared are not suitable for transfer to charity premises under current food safety law."