/ Food & Drink, Sustainability

Do you have a food waste bin?

Food waste can cause just as much damage to the planet as plastic waste, but not everyone has, or can have, a food waste bin. Is yours going straight to landfill?

Keeping on with the latest Which? Magazine’s very sustainable theme, last week we published three food waste facts everyone needs to know.

See what’s new in July’s Which? Magazine

I didn’t realise that of the 10.2m tonnes of food wasted in the UK, 7.1m of that figure comes from households, and a concerning 5m tonnes of it is actually edible.

I’ve shared a little anecdote on some of our recycling stories lately, including reverse vending machines most recently, so you’ll have to forgive me for indulging another – but I had a food bin for a while, or at least, I thought I did.

For some months, my block of flats had a council-provided food waste bin in the corner down in the bin room. I took my own mini food waste bin with me when I moved, so had been filling that up with a compostable bag before taking it downstairs.

But the communal food bin wasn’t getting taken away. After a while, it became full and, horribly, full of mice (or maybe rats, I didn’t hang about long after opening the lid to decide which).

It turned out that the food bin had been delivered by the council by mistake, and it was now refusing to remove it. Unfortunately my local authority doesn’t provide a food waste collection.

I’m pleased to say it was eventually removed and its unexpected tenants moved on, but now my food waste is ending up in with the general rubbish, which is definitely not ideal.

How much food do you throw away?

I wasn’t surprised to see bread on the list of items we throw away the most. Collectively, we throw away 20m slices of it every day.

I’m well aware that I’m disposing of too much of it after failing to get through a loaf most weeks – it’s something I’m making an effort to do something about, including freezing it when I know I’m not going to use it.

I wonder if refill stations, such as the ones currently on trial at Waitrose, could be a solution to things like this. Although we know that this could come with a host of hygiene-related concerns from your comments.

Do you think you’re throwing away too much food? And does your council currently provide a food waste collection service? Do you have a food bin at home? I’d be interested to see if anyone’s in a similar situation to me.


Yes we have a food waste collection service – Merthyr tydfil Borough Council and very good,it is collected once a week. Normally the only food waste I have is veg peelings, egg shells. I make use of state bread by making bread puddings or queen of puds, or even a savoury bread pudding made with cheese and served with baked beans and bangers lovely. When my kids were living at home they thought this was great.

shirley says:
6 July 2019

I have chickens and three compost bins, ALL my food waste either goes to the chickens or in the compost bins. I don’t throw any food away. I also make lovely bread pudding and toasted toppings for fish pie.

Can you share the recipe for the savoury bread pudding? That sounds like an excellent way of using up stale bread. My family don’t have a sweet tooth amongst us, so I would be really interested in trying out a savoury version!

Iain says:
6 July 2019

Edinburgh Council provide a food waste bin and we do use it but most of our food waste (veg peelings etc) is composted at home. We only really use it for meat bones or occasional cooked food waste.

Ian says:
6 July 2019

For years I’ve made all my bread in a bread maker, and contrary to popular advice, always keep it snugly wrapped in a freezer bag in the top of the fridge. It all gets eaten as daily breakfast bread or toast, and I’ve never needed to throw any away.

David says:
7 July 2019

Why don`t people freeze their bread when they buy it.Take out what you need on the day it defrosts very quickly = no waste.

Cazzer57 says:
28 February 2020

I don’t eat much bread but i don’t think bread freezes well and doesn’t seem the same when defrosted. At least some of the manufacturers do half loave size now.

I make my bread (mostly 100% wholemeal) in a bread machine then slice and freeze it. It is then defrosted in the microwave on low for 40 seconds turning it over after 20 seconds otherwise the microwave can make it soggy. Then I toast it.

To eat untoasted, defrost it naturally on something like a cake cooling rack so it doesn’t go soggy underneath.

I never have to throw bread away.

As Cazzer57 says, bread is not as good after freezing, but it is convenient.

I used to freeze a small loaf or rolls but don’t bother now that I have a breadmaker. It’s a pleasure to eat warm, fresh bread with butter. Homemade bread lacks the anti-staling agents and mould inhibitors used in most commercial bread, so it won’t keep long.

We have a food waste service, but the only food I ever put into the bin was chicken bones. We compost all fruit and veg peelings, and scraps of meat went to the dogs. We’ve now turned vegetarian (sorry dogs!) so don’t use the food waste bin at all.

In addition to freezing bread which I do, (I cut up a large loaf and defrost as needed), if you have sliced bread you can also toast slices from frozen. I rarely throw away any food and we do have a food waste collection. I lived in a flat for a year which in theory the Council did not provide food waste collection service for, however I used to leave the bin on the pavement on collection day and it was always emptied, if your block of flats is in a street that also has houses the chances are that the bin men will empty your bin.

I have had a food waste bin in the kitchen every since Edinburgh Council introduced on-street food waste wheelie bins in tenement areas. We don’t have a collection problem in my street, I have never seen the food waste bins full to the brim. This could be in part thanks to an efficient collecting service but also because not everyone in the street recycles food waste.

Yes, we have a food waste bin, about that size, but it collects for the compost (Hotbin). Our council one is used for bones only (and we should really burn these and spread the ash.)

For some companies set up to process food waste into biogas and electricity there are big subsidies. However, there is an apparent shortage of food waste so, it appears, to keep the generators turning and the lucrative subsidies coming in food crops like maize and rye are being used – some reports say one third of the “fuel”. This hardly seems “green”.

Everything is much too open to interpretation and exploitation.

I read somewhere that the compostable magazine wrappers are made from starch from waste potatoes in Eastern Europe. Where does the starch come from when demand exceeds supply. Grow potatoes for packaging instead of food?

We don’t throw away any edible food, only stalks, skins, bones, etc. Our council (Basildon) provide compostable liners for the small caddies they supply, and they collect a food-and garden-waste wheelie-bin every week. As for bread, we keep wrapped loaves in the freezer and only take out a couple of slices at a time, as needed. It stays completely fresh for more than a week if necessary, and the slices only take 5 or 10 minutes to “defrost”.

BrianL says:
27 July 2019

My council (Huntingdonshire D C) takes all food waste, cooked or uncooked, in the garden waste bin. Simple. Their recyclables policy is good too. Almost all plastic, glass & metal is accepted in the blue bin except, of course, polystyrene foam packaging and black plastic. Their website has a searchable alphabetic list of items that helps me to know which bin to use for unusual items.

Anne Godfrey says:
16 October 2019

Epping Forest collects our garden green bin weekly. This also contains all our food waste other then what we are able to compost in our garden composter.

We recently moved from the Mole Valley Area of Surrey, just about everything was recycled we had three very large wheelie bins that were emptied on rotation and one food waste bin emptied weekly an excellent service. We are now in Newark Notts and the recycling is in the dark ages they have a very long list of what you cannot recycle and a short list of what you can there is no facility for food waste, glass and all manor of other items have to be taken by car to a recycling centre at the local co-op goodness knows how much of what we have ends up in landfill, previously when we were in Mole Valley I doubt we would half fill our wheelie bin of non recyclables in a 2 week cycle. Now it is full to bursting each 2 week period. Sad

South Ayrshire is my local authority and we have food waste recycling but I believe there is not a good response. I have recently moved to a block of 10 flats only two of us do food waste recycling. There has been a problem with seagulls because the visiting carers, who due to time limitations, are careless about ensuring that bin lids are firmly closed. Recycling bins are frequently wrongly filled, we are scheduled to have ‘eurobins’ which may solve the problems as long as they are clearly labelled.

Any remains of a Seagull Pie can also go in the food waste bin. On our food bin the handle when raised locks the lid in place. It takes a millisecond. Hygienic waste disposal is a fundamental part of domiciliary care and should not be skimped.

In Dorset we have a weekly collection of food waste. The bin has a locking handle, which is plastic, and does not deter the foxes. Either you have to put it out after daylight or put a pole in the ground about 6ft high, and hang it on a hook. When empty, it is usually blown down the street, in one case into the middle of the T junction at the end of the road. I went to Lille in about 1980 and they had little bins which slotted into the top of the wheelie bins, avoiding both the above problems.
Because we compost all vegetable matter (uncooked), we only put out about a handful of waste food per week. Unless we have visiting grandchildren, who take food and then leave half of it.

John McIrvine says:
24 January 2021

Yes. Dundee City Council have a food waste collection service and I use it. It stopped for a short time during the first lockdown last year but it’s back up and running again.

Arlene harrison says:
24 January 2021

Yes and yes. In Milton keynes

Paul says:
24 January 2021

We throw out very little food and it seems like a massive waste of resources to have a service for people when it may never be used. Our council is trying to use this as a reason to reduce refuse collection (non-food waste) to once every three weeks. I can’t help but feel it’s a massive waste of money.

John London says:
24 January 2021

Living in W2 London, there is no waste food collection, which is really annoying as I’ve nowhere for composing or chickens. I think it’s time to go rattle a cage. Does anyone know an org. Pressing councils about this. To be fair they pretty good with rubbish and recycling. Convenient large wheeliebins service the st and are empty daily, alongside weekly doorstep collections. I’m guessing that people complain about rodents.

We have a weekly food waste collection which keeps any putrescible matter [leftovers, peelings & scrapings, fruit skins, eggshells, baking and cooking residues, etc] out of the kitchen bin and the general waste wheelie bin and makes them more hygienic. The council still collects the general waste every fortnight which I think could now be extended to every third or fourth week so long as people do not put any food waste in the bins. This would save about 50% of the immediate cost of the kerbside collection of the general waste although a higher volume over the longer interval might lead to the need for additional rounds. With the amount of recycling gradually increasing and the elimination of food waste from the general waste there is much less need for a large wheelie bin for general waste since there is very little that should legitimately be put in it – ours and most neighbours’ is usually less than half full meaning the collection operation is not particularly efficient. I think that is where any savings should be made, not by ending the separate food waste collection which does at least lead to the production of useful by-products either in energy or other forms.

I still put my kitchen waste in compostable bags provided by the council, as I have done for years. The bags go in the bin with the green waste, which is collected every two weeks. What has happened since I last posted is that the bags have improved and no longer split easily.

That was not intended as a reply to your post, John.