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An estimated 15 million school dinners will have to be thrown out under a third national lockdown, a waste collection firm has warned.
It comes as Boris Johnson announced a full national lockdown, including the closure of all schools in England - just as term was set to start.
Schools that had ordered a full week’s worth of dinners in advance – before the lockdown announcement – will now be forced to discard them.
National waste collections company BusinessWaste.co.uk said it has been tasked with collecting the mountains of "perfectly good although ultimately perishable food”.
Spokesperson Mark Hall said: "This is a national disaster, the government have well and truly let the schools down.
"They have allowed them to open and prepare for the weeks ahead, which of course means stocking the fridges high for this week’s school dinners and now those dinners are going in the bin.
"The schools simply don't have the freezers required to store all the perishable food and that, unfortunately, will mean the vast majority is to be thrown away.
"The amount of food waste caused by a sudden lockdown is staggering – if they had been given warning then it could have been sent to other places, but now food banks will be overwhelmed and they typically only take non-perishable goods"
BusinessWaste.co.uk said three million school meals are served each day – each costing £2 – and are typically ordered a week in advance.
This could also mean that £30m worth of school dinners will go to waste.
Hall added that the vast majority of schools did not have dedicated food waste bins, which could divert the food waste to an anaerobic digestion plant.
Watch: COVID-19: Students ‘worried’ as schools close in third lockdown
He said that millions of dinners will end up rotting in a landfill instead.
Speaking during a televised statement on Monday, the prime minister gave an overview of the new blanket restrictions imposed on England.
These include people staying at home except for essential medical need, shopping for food, exercising once a day or working if it cannot be done from home.
Meanwhile, all schools, but not nurseries, were told to close. Johnson said some exams will be cancelled as a result of the closures, with “alternative arrangements” being organised.
He also said that pupils entitled to free school meals will continue to receive them.
Some 38% of respondents thought that the government handled the issue of opening or closing schools during the coronavirus outbreak “very badly”, while 31% felt it was handled “fairly badly”.
Those polled included people across all major political parties, ages and regions.
Yahoo News has contacted the Department for Education for comment.
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