Food waste

Information to help you reduce, home compost and recycle your food 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. If you have a home compost bin, the best way to recycle this type of food waste is to home compost 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 £20 (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 waste at the kerbside

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

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.

I’ve received an envelope with liners and a leaflet through my letterbox

We are running a trial project to promote food waste recycling in some parts of Oxfordshire in May 2021. Questions about this project are answered below.

What is the background to the project?

Oxfordshire’s district councils have provided separate household food waste collections for more than 10 years. Oxfordshire already achieves amongst the highest recycling rates in the country but despite this, around half of all food waste produced from Oxfordshire households is still disposed of into general waste bins.

Oxfordshire County Council could save approaching £2 million in disposal costs if all this food waste was recycled. The councils promote recycling services in many ways to ensure residents have the correct information and motivation to separate their recyclable waste as required.

All households are provided with a food waste bin by their district council for food waste collections. Customers may then purchase their own food caddy liners (if they choose to) to help use the service.

What are the aims of the project?

The main aim of the project is to test two ways of providing food bin liners to see if this increases the number of people recycling their food waste. Running a trial project will allow us to calculate the full costs and benefits of the two methods before taking a decision to use either approach for a wider campaign.

  • Method 1: deliver an information pack and food caddy liners to all properties on the collection round. This approach will cost the council more money to purchase and supply the liners but will avoid staff costs to identify those who are not yet recycling their food waste.
  • Method 2: deliver an information pack and food caddy liners only to those households who had not put out a food bin in the previous week that we visited. It will take staff time and cost to monitor the collection rounds to target the deliveries. However, less money will be spent on delivering liners and leaflets to households who already use the service and may not need the information pack.

Another aim of the trial is to see whether deliveries can be made using a cargo bike. The Oxford-based cycle courier company Pedal and Post will carry the supply of information packs and liners. This will avoid the impacts on local air quality from using a vehicle with an internal combustion engine and minimise the climate impacts of the project.

What is happening first?

Council officers will collect data on which households have put out their food waste bin for collection over a two-week period. This part of the project will start on 20 April. A staff member will work alongside the collection crew to create a list of properties that have put out a food waste bin.

The information gathered will be used to evaluate the impact of the project and, in areas where targeted deliveries are made, to identify which households should receive information packs and liners.

Where is it happening?

The project will cover four food waste collection rounds in the following district council areas:

  • Oxford City Council – Florence Park, Littlemore and Rose Hill (Tuesday)
  • Vale of White Horse District Council – Harwell (Wednesday)
  • West Oxfordshire District Council – Central and South Witney (Thursday)
  • South Oxfordshire District Council – Didcot, Ladygrove (Friday)

How have the areas been chosen?

One area has been selected in each of the four district council areas. They have been selected partly based on their bin collection day so the project team can work on these on consecutive days. They are all in built-up areas where the housing is relatively close together so the deliveries can be made on foot and using a cargo bike. It would not be practicable to run this trial project in more rural parts of the county where there are large distances between each property.

What will each household receive?

Each household in the trial will receive a food liner pack containing a roll of plastic food caddy liners and a leaflet about food waste recycling.

I live in one of these areas but didn’t receive anything

Liners and info packs will be delivered to all households on the rounds in Witney and Harwell. Deliveries will be targeted to those households that didn’t put a food waste bin out on a previous collection for the rounds in Oxford and Didcot.

How are the food liner packs being delivered?

Each pack will be posted through the letterbox by a member of council staff. The main stock of liner packs will be transported by a cycle courier from the Oxford company Pedal and Post.

Why does the project not cover Cherwell District Council?

Cherwell District Council currently collects their food waste in a different way to the other four councils. It’s not possible to check who is currently recycling their food waste as it is mixed with garden waste and the plastic liners used for this project are not suitable for the facility where Cherwell’s food waste is composted.

Do I have to use food caddy liners provided by the council for food waste collections?

No. Oxfordshire councils have never regularly provided food caddy liners. Currently, residents in all areas apart from Cherwell can use plastic or compostable caddy liners; reuse a bag they already have like a bread bag or carrier bag; line their food bin with newspaper or put their food waste loose into the bin.

What happens to the food caddy liners?

Food waste collected from households in these areas is recycled at Anaerobic Digestion (AD) facilities at Cassington and Wallingford. Before the food can be recycled, the food and liners are shredded and the liners are removed. They are sent to an energy-from-waste incinerator, the same sort of place your non-recyclable waste is processed, and the food waste is then recycled at the AD facility.

Isn’t it bad for the environment to give out plastic food caddy liners?

Recycling food waste is 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.

Most people are trying to reduce the amount of unnecessary plastic and other single-use items they use. Providing food caddy liners may help people to start recycling their food waste and the benefits of this outweigh the impacts of manufacturing and disposing of the liners. Most people using the food waste service already buy their own liners. One reason we are running this project is to see whether providing liners to households who aren’t yet recycling their food is a good way to encourage them to start recycling their food and to reduce the overall impact of waste production on the environment.

I don’t have a food bin at my house, how can I get one?

Your district council provides these – please contact them using the following details:

What can be recycled in my food bin?

Any uneaten, gone off, cooked or raw food can be accepted.

This includes meat, bones, dairy, sauces to vegetables, coffee grounds, tea bags, cakes, and crumbs.

What can’t be recycled in my food bin?

Food placed in the food bin must have all packaging removed apart from a bag used to line the food bin. Please don’t put plastic films and trays or compostable packaging into your food bin. The only exception is if you have used cooking oil to recycle, you can put this into your food bin in a plastic bottle of up to one litre. Please makes sure the cap is on, so the oil doesn’t leak everywhere.

If you have any other waste to dispose of, use our Waste Wizard search tool to find out what can be accepted at the kerbside or at a Household Waste Recycling Centre, as well