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How is Food Waste Recycled?

According to Recycle Now, British households throw away a combined 4.5 million tonnes of food every single year, with much of it still being ok to eat. That equates to enough waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall 90 times over or to fill 38 million wheelie bins. But where does all of this unwanted food go? Not all of it is recycled, but at the same time, not all of it goes to landfill, either. The UK is taking more and more steps to recycle what we can so as to reduce our carbon footprints, but have you ever wondered how all of our leftover food is recycled? Let’s take a look.


Why is it important to recycle food waste?

Where you might not think that food waste has a huge impact on the environment, because, unlike plastic, it decomposes, you’d be mistaken. The food we don’t want that is sent to landfill will rot. But as it does, it releases a harmful gas into the atmosphere – methane. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This means that it is even more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere, states the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Some councils will, instead of sending food waste to landfill, send it to be incinerated in order to create more useful energy. However, waste food is usually composed of around 70% water. Essentially, this means that it takes even more energy to burn it. As a result, this makes it a far less efficient method than actually sending unwanted food to be recycled properly.

If we took all of the edible food out of the landfill, it would have the same environmental impact as taking a quarter of all cars off the road in the UK. This could result in a considerable decrease in carbon dioxide, claims Recycle Now.


Which foods can be recycled?

Almost every type of food-stuff can be recycled, although you will need to contact your Local Authority to determine exactly which foods you can put into your designated bin. They will also tell you which foods cannot go in there. Usually, the following foods can be recycled across the UK:

  • Dairy products
  • Meat and bones (both raw and cooked)
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Couscous
  • Noodles
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee ground
  • Pet food
  • Egg shells
  • Egg boxes 

Check with your local council as to which foods can be recycled in your area. If you cannot recycle as much food as you would like, or if your local council doesn’t yet offer this service, then you’ll be able to get in touch with us here at Willshee’s for dedicated food waste recycling services. Generally, however, the following things cannot be recycled in a food waste bin:

  • Food packaging
  • Liquids
  • Oils
  • Fats


How is food waste recycled?

Food waste is recycled in different ways, depending on your local council or a specific waste management company. Food waste, unlike plastic, cannot be turned into new, edible food products. So it’s often used as fertiliser or as biogas to generate energy. There are two different recycling processes that waste food can go through, and they are as follows:

In-vessel composting

This process normally involves mixing food waste with garden waste. It’s then shredded down and placed into an enclosed system for around 2-4 weeks This process, essentially, turns it all into compost. The mixture is left in that enclosed system in temperatures up to 70 degrees Celsius. Once this part of the process is over, the mixture is transferred outside in order to mature for a further 1-3 months. 

These mounds have to be turned regularly and are quality-checked before they can be used as soil conditioner. This is much the same process as at-home composting. However, it’s done in such a way to speed the entire process up. The fertiliser that’s created is then used on farmland, generally. This enables the growth of new crops or to rejuvenate top soil. It can also be used to create green spaces within the community.

Anaerobic digestion

This is a process that we, here at Willshee’s, favour to recycle food waste. It involves relying on microorganisms to break down food waste which gives off methane. This is then collected and turned into biogas, therefore generating electricity. As well as generating energy, as already touched upon, it can also be used as fertiliser when composted correctly and in an eco-friendly manner.


How is recycled food waste used in the community?

Usually, one of two things will happen: food waste either gets turned into natural fertiliser or is transformed into renewable energy. Willshee’s does both of these things. The food waste we recycle is either turned into compost, with the gases from that being used to power our generator during the anaerobic digestion process, or it’s turned into biogas as a form of renewable energy. 

It’s an eco-friendly cycle that is only possible through the responsible collection and processing of food waste. Many councils across the country will do the same. They often use unwanted food as a way to generate electricity to support the National Grid. Other councils might take their composted food waste and donate it to charities and allotments so it can complete the full cycle – waste food enabling fresh foods to grow.


How to recycle food waste at home

You can recycle waste food at home by either requesting a food waste bin from your local council or simply composting it yourself in your own back garden. All you will need is a compost bin that’s dark in colour and, preferably, in a location that gets some sun. This is because compost relies on the dark and warmth to be able to decompose in a controlled manner. A dedicated compost bin will have a small hatch at the bottom which can be opened to allow for a shovel to collect the compost. 

Not only will this help you to save money on soil for your garden, but it also helps the environment. Alternatively, you can contact us here at Willshee’s to collect your unwanted food for you. Simply collect it up over a matter of weeks, and we’ll take it off your hands. Upon collection, we’ll give you a waste transfer note, giving you absolute peace of mind that your waste will be taken and disposed of responsibly and in an environmentally-friendly manner.



Willshee’s are pleased to offer food waste recycling services to both commercial and domestic customers throughout Burton-on-Trent and the surrounding areas. For more information about how we can help you today, from skip hire and grab hire to hazardous waste disposal and specialist recycling, get in touch with a member of our professional, dedicated team – you’ll always be able to count on us for all of your waste management needs.


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