How is food waste recycled?
The best thing that can happen to food is that it makes it to our plates and is enjoyed.
Avoiding throwing out food that could have been eaten will save you money and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However some food waste is inevitable - egg shells, banana skins and tea bags are never going to be on the menu.
Home composting is a great way to stop this sort of waste ending up in landfill, and our gardens will really thank us for it.
If you live in an area that has a local food waste recycling collection service, you can use this to dispose of anything you can't eat, or compost at home. It can be recycled into a good quality soil improver or fertiliser and even generate electricity that can be fed back into the national grid. You can check whether your local authority offer a food waste collection service on our Recycling Locator.
Did you know?
- Around 7 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year, and most of it could have been eaten.
- Little by little all this waste adds up, over a year the average family throws away around £700 of food shopping – equivalent to an annual utility bill.
- Some of the waste is made up of things like peelings, cores and bones, but the majority is, or once was, perfectly good food.
- Most of it ends up in landfill sites where it rots and releases methane, a damaging green house gas. Throwing away food is also a huge waste of the energy, water and packaging used in its production, transportation and storage. If we all stopped wasting the food which could have been eaten, it would have the same CO2 impact as taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads.
How is it recycled?
Many councils now collect food waste, which can be recycled in several ways including:
- In-vessel composting involves mixing food waste with garden waste – shredding it and then composting it in an enclosed systemfor around 2-4 weeks (temperatures of up to 70°C speed up the process and ensure any harmful microbes are killed off). The material is then left outside to mature for a further 1-3 months with regular turning and checks to ensure quality before going on to be used as soil conditioner.
- Anaerobic Digestion uses microorganisms to break down food waste, animal manure, slurries and energy crops in the absence of oxygen, inside an enclosed system. As it breaks down it gives off methane, which is collected and converted into biogas and used to generate electricity, heat or transport fuels. It also creates a nutrient-rich digestate that can be used as a fertiliser for agriculture and in land regeneration.
Reducing food waste is a major issue and not just about good food going to waste; wasting food costs the average family with children almost £60 a month and has serious environmental implications too.
The amount of food we throw away is a waste of resources. Just think about all the energy, water and packaging used in food production, transportation and storage. This all goes to waste when we throw away perfectly good food.
Cheese is a good example – feeding and milking the cows, cooling and transporting the milk, processing it in to cheese, packing it, getting it to the shops, keeping it at the right temperature all the time. If it then gets thrown away it will most likely end up in a landfill site, where, rather than harmlessly decomposing as many people think, it rots and actually releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Issues and solutions
- Don't forget to make the most of your food and drink and try to avoid wasting food in the first place. For ideas, recipes and simple tips visit Love Food Hate Waste. You could also try to compost at home.
- A food waste caddy in your kitchen can help you to separate out your food waste for recycling and composting. This can be emptied into your compost bin or council food waste bin every couple of days.
- Your council may recommend that you line your food waste caddy with a liner or newspaper. Only use liners that are recommended by your council as some may not break down in the composting process.
- Where possible keep your bins out of direct sunlight and keep the bin lid closed.