/ Food & Drink

Could you reduce your food waste?

Food waste

Around 10 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK. People like me – living in a small flat, without outdoor space for a compost heap, nor green or food waste collection – are part of the problem. So, what do you do with your food waste?

Trips down to the compost heap at the bottom of the garden with a box of fruit and vegetable scraps were part of my childhood. Although nothing usable goes in the bin as far as possible, banana skins, egg shells etc end up in my general waste. In my area, it’s incinerated, without the chance to break down into compost.

In theory, I could collect my food waste scraps and see if I could take them to a local green waste collection centre. In practice, I’m not keen to store enough food waste in my flat to make the trip worthwhile.

Food waste

In England, 48% of local authorities don’t operate food waste collections. But the rest of the UK is much better; all authorities in Northern Ireland and Wales do, along with 91% of local authorities in Scotland.

If your council collects food waste from your home, it’ll go either to a compost centre, or an anaerobic digestion centre. If you don’t separate your food scraps from your general, black bag waste, it’ll either end up being incinerated (usually to create Energy from Waste) or going into landfill.

Over half (7.7 of 15 million tonnes) of the municipal waste that went to landfill in 2015 was biodegradable, the government estimates. It has targets to reduce this, as biodegradable waste decomposes to produce methane (a greenhouse gas).

Future of food waste

Wrap, a not-for-profit sustainability organisation, estimates that food and drink accounts for 20% of the UK’s CO2 emissions. By 2025, it estimates that the average family will waste £700 per year on food unnecessarily. So it has set out a plan for reducing food waste by 2025, and is working with government, industry, and consumers to achieve it.

A recent report on food waste from the House of Commons’ Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee recommended a national food waste target for England, making it compulsory for retailers to publish data on their food waste, and a review of whether ‘best before’ dates on food are necessary.

Tesco already publishes its food waste data. Sainsbury’s is also beginning to do so. But doing so is voluntary and no other retailers have so far taken up the challenge.

Though business food waste is part of the problem, we as consumers can also do a little more. Around a fifth of us already compost, according to our survey (1,067 members of the general public in March 2017).

What do you do with food waste?

It is collected by my local authority (42%, 507 Votes)

I compost it in my own compost bin (34%, 412 Votes)

Nothing - it goes into general waste (23%, 274 Votes)

I take it to a local green waste collection centre (1%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,206

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If you want to give composting a go, check our expert reviews of the best compost bins. Or step up your compost efforts with a wormery.

And if you use a food or green waste collection, make sure you’re not putting items in which could contaminate it – scraps of plastic are the biggest problem.

Do you make compost from your food waste? What would you do to reduce our food waste?


I put my small amount of food waste in compostable bags provided by the council and these go in the brown bin with the garden waste. Apparently we are to be issued with food waste caddies soon. I’m planning to get a compost bin, to cope with garden waste but food waste can join it.


I take it we are talking about food that is beyond the possibility of human consumption and not the food wastage of big /giant supermarkets who could donate their food to the Salvation Army and others to distribute to help the destitute in this self-centred society ? The critics come out with -who pays for logistics and if someone gets ill eating the food ? why dont they have a look at the Home of Capitalism – the USA where 133 BILLION pounds of food are wasted where Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act absolving legal responsibility for food donated to charity and as far as logistics are concerned – Feeding America and Food Finders make it easy to donate . This country imports everything from the USA why not this ? Next in relation to using wasted food for other purposes there already has been a convo on this in the issue of coloured bins and weekly uplift in which I pointed out many local councils dont have the money to use machinery for refuse reprocessing and because of distance from urban centres , what they do (secretly ) is just dump the lot together and send it 100,s of miles in the case of some Scottish councils to English waste reprocessing depots , this was a bit of a scandal in Scotland after all the strict enforcement of what goes into each coloured bin sending some Scots into outrage.


Definitely going to look into the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act @duncan-lucas. Thanks for highlighting this. I remember walking past a Tesco near an former place of work early in the morning one day and feeling my heart break when I saw a yellow bin being wheeled out with what looked like perfectly fine croissants, bags of salad and other produce that I can only imagine was heading for either landfill or an incinerator. I would love to see a UK version of the Bill Emerson Act discussed in Parliament one day.


It used to be the case that a lot of commercial food waste was collected by reprocessing companies that converted it to animal feed.

I expect that unwrapped or unpacketed food has to be condemned and removed from human consumption for obvious food hygiene reasons, but surplus food that is still in unbroken packaging can be passed on to charities or other organisations without any concerns over legal liabilities – so long as it is within it is still fit for human consumption. It is almost impossible for shops to avoid surpluses as the demand is now so unpredictable from day to day and stores are frightened of running out of stock.

We seem to have very little surplus or waste food after the birds have had their pick and peck.

Brian Harden says:
16 May 2017

We don’t waste food, we only buy what we know we will eat. The waste bits, like skins and peelings go down the sink via a waste disposal unit.

Jim Dolan says:
19 May 2017



A few years ago I thought I was doing the world of good by popping all my flat’s food waste, thankfully mostly cuttings from meal prep, into a caddy to then take out to a a larger bin on the street at regular intervals during the week. Unfortunately, I did not foresee just how often I would need to make the trip. Every so often I would open the caddy to find a maggots, flies, cockroaches and one day even an army of ants marching through the house, across the kitchen floor and up the unit to where the container of yummy decomposing food sat. This wasn’t my finest hour and but when you’re as green conscious as I am and you don’t have a garden as a Londoner, you really need to keep on top of your food recycling. That said, I would jump at the opportunity to do this only, only be much, much more disciplined next time.


I was given a food caddy at my previous home but never used it because I did not want waste food festering for up to two weeks before it was emptied. The waste food was put in the small compostable bags provided by the council and those were put in the brown bin with garden waste. I used the food caddy to store paint brushes.

That’s a useful warning Dean.