Food waste prevention and recycling

It might not look like it but, because food is heavy, it’s actually the largest single waste stream in our household waste bins. More than a quarter of the waste in the average non-recyclable waste bin is made up of food. That’s almost twice as much as plastic.

You might think you don’t produce much food waste, but if you drink tea or eat fruit and veg, you definitely do!


Everything you buy and use has to come from somewhere, and producing food has a big environmental impact. It’s one of the biggest drivers of climate change, so it makes sense to get the most out of it and waste less. Zero Waste Scotland has some useful information to help you make an impact. 


Prevention is better than cure! Although it’s not always possible to avoid food waste completely, for example, peelings and teabags, around half of the food waste in this country is actually food which would have been edible - it’s just gone off before it was eaten or been thrown away unopened.

There are loads of ways to reduce this waste which will save you money and protect the environment at the same time. From shopping better and good portion control, to using up leftovers in meals. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign has loads of great ideas and recipes.


If you have a garden or allotment, it’s definitely worth thinking about home composting to get some free fertiliser for your garden. You can compost

  • uncooked peelings
  • coffee grounds
  • teabags.

Please don’t put these in your garden waste bin as we’re not allowed to collect them together.

It’s important to do it right, but that’s much easier than you might think. To compost the right way

  • keep food waste to just uncooked fruit and vegetables
  • leave out cooked food, meat and dairy
  • mix it up with garden waste and shredded paper or damp cardboard
  • make sure you turn it to give it a supply of oxygen.

Learn how to compost at home.

You can buy compost bins online, at garden centres or make your own. There are loads of videos online.


Nearly every household in Edinburgh has access to a weekly food waste collection either at the kerbside or through the communal bin service. This can collect all types of cooked and uncooked food including things like meat and dairy which you can’t home compost.

All the food we collect is taken to the Biogen reprocessing plant at Millerhill. It’s treated using anaerobic digestion, which generates gas for the power grid, and fertiliser and creates local jobs. This plant recycles 10,000 tonnes of food waste each year. However, it could take a lot more if everyone used the service. Find out what happens to our recycling.

If you want to order a kerbside food bin or a kitchen caddy these are free of charge. Please note that kerbside bins are not available if you receive the communal collection service - you’ll have a communal bin near you.

This is also a great way to get all your food waste in one place to help you see how much you’re throwing away. It might even help you change your shopping habits so you waste less and save some money.

Food waste myths

  • I don’t have much food waste - even if you have a small amount it’s worth recycling, and you almost certainly have more than you realise.
  • Collecting food will attract vermin or cause flies - this is the same waste you already have. Our kitchen caddies keep it safe and our food waste bins have a lock. Food waste collections are weekly, so it’s actually more hygienic to use them than to put your food in the general waste bin.
  • Recycling food waste is fiddly - we do ask you to make sure your food is bagged or wrapped. This is to keep the process as hygienic as possible for you and for our staff who are handling thousands of bins a day. If the food is not wrapped it will stick to the side of your bin and not come out. You need to use a compostable liner, a simple plastic bag (bread bags are a good size) or wrap it in paper, whichever works best for you.
  • The food waste bins are dirty - we've been putting out new food waste bins as part of our our communal bin review. These replace the old bins which are approaching the ned of their life, and the new ones are easier and cleaner to use.