Food and garden waste

Information to help you reduce, home compost and recycle your food and garden waste

Why is it so important to reduce food waste?

Every year in the UK nearly 7 million tonnes of edible food is thrown away.

30% of global greenhouse gases come from producing food. You can help reduce our impact on climate change by avoiding food waste wherever possible then home composting or recycling anything that is leftover.

There are several benefits to using up the last piece of broccoli, a few salad leaves, potatoes or leftover food.

Resources: Food uses up the world’s resources, from growing, harvesting and transporting it. Buying what you need and eating what you buy helps to minimise our environmental impact and ensure the energy it has used doesn’t go to waste.

Save money: In the current cost of living crisis, we are all looking for ways to save money. Did you know the average family in Oxfordshire throws away around £720 worth of edible food each year? Meal planning allows you to organise and buy just what you need for the week, thus preventing food and money from being thrown away.

Save time: Batch cooking, freezing meals and using up leftovers can actually save us time, or be helpful if you don’t feel like cooking.

A chance to try a new recipe: Repurposing leftovers or ingredients can encourage us to be more creative or inventive when we’re cooking up a storm!

How can I reduce food waste?

At home: In the UK, the top wasted foods include whole potatoes, bread, milk, bananas and salad. There are different websites which can help with inspiration and recipes for using up leftovers, these include; Big Oven, Love Food Hate Waste, BBC Good Food.

Your fridge plays a big part in keeping food fresher for longer. It all starts with checking the temperature of your fridge and turning it down – it should be set below 5ºC. More information can be found at #ChillTheFridgeOut

Out and about: Did you know that the waste charity WRAP estimate 15% of meals ordered in cafes and restaurants go to waste – mostly because of portion size? When eating out, if you’re unable to finish your meal, ask to take the food home with you. Most places will pop it in a box for you to so you can finish it off when you have room.

More ideas: By using apps such as Too Good To Go, an app for helping supermarkets and businesses use up leftovers, and Olio,  a food sharing app, can help to prevent food waste in your community

Follow Oxfordshire Recycles on Facebook or Twitter for practical tips, hacks and recipes to help you make your food go further and get the most out of your money.

Oxfordshire councils support the national Love Food Hate Waste campaign and promote key messages via social media channels and publications.

Food's not rubbish

Find out more about reducing waste by downloading our ‘Food’s not rubbish’ leaflet (pdf format)

  • Freeze food before it reaches its use by or best before date, and keep food fresher for longer by setting the temperature between 2 and 5 degrees C. Think of it as pressing the pause button on your food. 
  • How to make the most of your food – by pressing the pause button and freezing food you don’t have the time to eat before the date on the label, and setting your fridge to between 3 and 5 degrees to help things stay fresher for longer.
  • Saving money – by simply using up what you have in the fridge, loving your leftovers and growing your own.
  • Producing compost at home.

Advice and support 

To help people take action on food waste locally, we fund the Replenish Project, a network of trained volunteers of Food Waste advisors.

Food Waste advisors can attend events, set up projects and work with local community groups as well as friends and neighbours - wherever they feel they can help.

If you’d like to join the project, sign up for their newsletter or would like a Food Waste advisor to attend your event please contact the Replenish Project.

Home composting

We all produce some food waste that can’t be avoided, like banana skins, tea bags, and vegetable peelings. Many of us also have gardens, creating grass cuttings, sticks, leaves, etc throughout the year. If you have a home compost bin, it’s the best way to recycle certain food waste with garden waste to generate free, high-quality compost for your garden. 

Advice on home composting

Some food waste such as dairy, meat and fish can’t be safely composted at home but can be accepted in kerbside collections provided by your district council. Visit the Replenish Project for more information on home composting.

Composting volunteers

The Replenish Project trains volunteer composting advisors to help people to start composting at home and support those who already do so. Composting advisors attend events and work with local groups such as schools and gardening clubs as well as friends and neighbours - wherever they feel they can help.

Please contact the Replenish Project if you’d like to join the project or would like a composting advisor to attend your event.

Compost bins

Buy a home compost bin

You can buy a home compost bin through our partners Getcomposting from £31 (plus delivery charge). Buy two 220-litre or 330-litre compost bins and you'll get the second half price.

Make your compost bin

To save money you could build your compost bin from wood offcuts or other surplus materials. The Replenish Project has information on building a compost bin from pallets. Oxford Wood Recycling in Abingdon has a good range of used wood suitable for home projects. You could also check Freegle or Gumtree to see if anyone is selling or giving away an unwanted compost bin.

Food waste collection

Watch our film to find out how your food waste is collected from your home/the kerbside

Every household in Oxfordshire receives a food waste collection from their district council. Recycling food waste reduces your carbon footprint, saves the council money on mixed waste disposal, and generates green electricity and fertiliser used on farmland across Oxfordshire.

For updates on your household collections and what is happening in your district, you could follow them on social media.

  • Cherwell District Council Facebook
  • Oxford City Council Facebook
  • South Oxfordshire District Council Facebook
  • Vale of White Horse District Council Facebook
  • West Oxfordshire District Council Facebook 

Why should I recycle my food waste?

Oxfordshire residents already recycled more than 26,000 tonnes of food waste in 2022/23 – this is the same weight as more than 4,000 African elephants or two and a half Eiffel Towers!  

Despite this excellent work, the same amount, nearly a third of the weight of the average household rubbish bin, is food waste that could also have been recycled.

If this were also recycled, it would save the council more than £2m a year in disposal costs.

Recycling food waste is also an important step to reduce your environmental and climate impact. Recycling food waste has more than double the carbon benefit compared to food waste disposed of in your rubbish bin.

What can I recycle?

  • Cooked and raw food
  • Any food that has gone off, or has become stale or mouldy
  • Meat, fish, and bones
  • Vegetables and fruits (cores, peelings, ends etc)
  • Dairy products
  • Bread
  • Tea bags and coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Plate leftovers

Why can I put cooked food waste in my food waste collection but not in my home composter?

The food waste collected by your district council is taken to one of two anaerobic digestion sites provided by Oxfordshire County Council and our contractor, Severn Trent Green Power Ltd.

These sites are highly controlled to stop smells from escaping and ensure birds and vermin are not attracted to the facilities. The facilities reach the correct temperature to ensure any bad bacteria is killed off. This means that the facilities can compost cooked and uncooked food, including meats, oils and fats.

Can I use plastic bags to line my food waste bin?

If you live in Oxford City, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire, you can use a plastic bag to line your food waste bin – consider reusing a bread bag or other food packaging rather than buying liners.  If you live in Cherwell, you must use compostable bags. In all districts, you can also line your food bin with newspaper or put the food in loose but you will need to clean your bin more often if you don’t use a liner.

How is food waste recycled?

Watch our film to find out how your food waste is recycled

Severn Trent Green Power operates two Anaerobic Digestion plants in Oxfordshire.

Anaerobic Digestion (AD)

Separately collected food waste is processed in a series of large sealed vats, or 'digestors', where it is heated and stirred for 90 days. This process releases methane and converts the food waste to a valuable fertiliser, which is pasteurised and stored on-site for up to six months and then sold to the farming industry.

The methane gas produced by the process is piped to an on-site engine to generate electricity which is fed into the National Grid.

The AD plant at Cassington accepts food waste from West Oxfordshire and Oxford. The AD plant at Wallingford accepts food waste from South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse.

The two plants we use in Oxfordshire generate enough electricity to power around 9,000 homes - equivalent to a town the size of Grove.

Recycle your garden waste

If you can’t compost your garden waste at home, you have two main ways Oxfordshire Councils can accept garden waste.

Recycling garden waste reduces your carbon footprint and produces fertiliser that is used on farmland across Oxfordshire.

Recycle your garden waste at the kerbside

Households in Oxfordshire need to opt in and pay for a garden waste collection from their district council.

For updates on your household collections and what is happening in your district, you could follow them on social media.

  • Cherwell District Council Facebook
  • Oxford City Council Facebook
  • South Oxfordshire District Council Facebook
  • Vale of White Horse District Council Facebook
  • West Oxfordshire District Council Facebook

Recycle your garden waste at your local recycling centre

All of the recycling centres in Oxfordshire accept garden waste for free.

Find your nearest recycling centre and check the site rules before visiting. If you have a commercial-type vehicle or trailer you may require a permit.  

How garden waste is recycled

Garden waste collected from the kerbside or taken to a recycling centre is composted at four sites in Oxfordshire operated by Severn Trent Green Power (STGP). The compost is used as a soil conditioner at local farms and is sold in large bulk quantities only. Contact STGP for details.

Watch our film to find out how your garden waste is recycled

Read the video transcript

44,000 tonnes of green waste collected from the kerbside and from recycling centres are brought to a composting facility like this in Oxfordshire. Once broken down over the course of 6 weeks, the compost is used by local farmers.