Food and garden waste

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

30% of global greenhouse gases come from producing food. You can help reduce our impact on the environment by avoiding food waste wherever possible then either home composting or recycling anything that’s leftover.

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.

Reducing food waste

Information about food waste reduction

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

Advice and support for food waste reduction

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.

Due to COVID-19 face-to-face events can't currently be attended but Replenish will help provide support where they can.

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.

Buy a discounted compost bin

You can buy a home compost bin through our partners Getcomposting from £22.50 (plus delivery charge). Buy two 220-litre or 330-litre compost bins and you'll get the second half price.

Make your own compost bin

To save money you could build your own 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.

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.

Due to COVID-19 face-to-face events can't currently be attended but Replenish will help provide support where they can.

Recycle your food and garden waste

Information about food waste collections

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; generates green electricity and a fertiliser that is 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.

Why should I recycle my food waste?

About a fifth of all household waste produced is food. Oxfordshire residents already separate half of this for recycling – thank you. If the other half that ends up in the general waste bin was also recycled, it could save the council approaching £2m a year in disposal costs.

Recycling food waste is also a very important step you can take 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 general waste bin.

What can I recycle?

All cooked and raw food can be put into your food caddy for recycling, including meat, fish, vegetables, dairy products, tea bags and coffee grounds.

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 will be taken to one of three composting or 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 need to 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 the food waste processed?

Severn Trent Green Power operates three plants within the county, using two different technologies: In-Vessel Composting and Anaerobic Digestion.

In-Vessel Composting (IVC)

IVC used to process food waste where it is collected in the same bin as garden waste. It is shredded and treated in large tunnels for three weeks. Air is pumped through the tunnels to speed up the decomposition process. The waste is then transferred to another set of tunnels and the process is repeated to ensure that all waste has fully broken down into compost. This compost is stored in a maturation area and is then refined on-site to sell to the farming industry.

The IVC plant at Ashgrove Farm, Ardley accepts mixed food and garden waste collected in Cherwell.

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 72 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 electricity generated from each plant is enough to power almost 5,000 homes – equivalent to a town the size of Kidlington

Recycle your garden waste at the kerbside

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

Cherwell District Council will soon be collecting food and garden waste separately and will also have a paid-for garden collection service from February 2022.

Recycling garden waste reduces your carbon footprint and produces a fertiliser that is 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.

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.  

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

Read video transcript

Separately collected food waste from the kerbside is brought to an Anaerobic Digestion facility for recycling. The first stop is the weighbridge, where the vehicle full of food waste is weighed so we know how much food is being recycled.

The vehicle then drives into an enclosed reception building where it tips the food into a large bunker. Business waste from supermarkets, restaurants, and even liquid waste from factories, breweries, and dairies is mixed with household food waste. It is passed through the mouth of the plant where it is chewed, any contamination removed, and the food waste soup is created, ready for digestion.

Before digestion, this needs to be pasteurised, to kill off any bad bacteria. This is like cooking soup. It is held in giant vats where it is heated to 70 degrees C for one hour. They are heated by using recycled heat from the gas engines. The pasteurised soup is then fed to one of the digestion tanks. There are five tanks on site. Each tank is like a giant stomach, where good bacteria eat the food, converting it into biogas, or methane, and a fertiliser called digestate.

The food waste is pumped through the five tanks, and this takes around 100 days.

Like the bacteria in our stomachs, the good bacteria break down the food waste to extract as much energy as possible. Once all the biogas has been extracted, we are left with a nutritious organic fertiliser.

Because the digesters are like giant stomachs, they have to be tested every day, in our lab, to keep them healthy.

The digesters have to be kept at body temperature, and are heated by using recycled heat from the gas engines.

The biogas is stored in the roofs of the tanks. It is then fed into two large engines which, just like a car converting fuel into energy, convert the biogas into electricity. This is fed into the national grid through transformers on site. The engines produce enough energy to power 4,200 homes.

The nutritious organic fertiliser is a black liquid that is taken from the plant and spread as a valuable fertiliser on local farmland. This helps improves crop yield and replace artificial fertilisers.

Vehicles bring in approximately 120 tonnes of food waste every day. This means, in addition to powering our homes and helping to grow crops, over 40,000 tonnes of food waste is kept out of landfill.