What happens to household food waste?

Household Food Waste

In the UK, we throw away 9.5 million tonnes of food waste each year. That’s despite over 8 million people living in food poverty, and many more across the globe. When food goes to waste, it has economic, environmental, and moral consequences. So what happens to household food waste? Read our guide.

What happens to household food waste?

While more councils now provide food waste collections, millions of tonnes of food waste still ends up in landfill. As it rots, it gives off methane, a greenhouse gas more potent that carbon dioxide. Methane traps heat in the atmosphere and this contributes to global warming. Some councils send food waste to the incinerator. However, because of food’s high water content, it takes a lot of energy to burn it so it’s inefficient. A far better option is recycling food waste. So how is it recycled?

How is household food waste recycled?

In-vessel composting

Food waste is mixed with garden waste, then it is shredded and composted in an enclosed tank for up to 4 weeks. While in the tank, it’s subjected to temperature of up to 70°C. The high temperature breaks down the waste and kills off any harmful pathogens. The composted material is left outside and turned every month or so before being used as a nutrient rich feed for soil.

Anaerobic Digestion

Food waste is fed into a tank where microorganisms break it down in the absence of oxygen. As the waste breaks down, it gives off methane. However, unlike on landfill, methane doesn’t just escape into the atmosphere. It’s collected and converted to biogas which is used to produce electricity, heat, or biofuel for vehicles. A by-product of the process is also used as an agricultural fertiliser.

How to recycle food waste at home

If your council hasn’t provided you with a food waste caddy, invest in one. A caddy will help you keep your food waste separate from the rest of your waste. We recommend lining your caddy with a liner of newspaper so things don’t get too messy or smelly.

Reduce your household food waste

Feeling a twinge of guilt about how much food waste you throw away? Here are some top tips on how you can reduce your food waste at home.

Plan your meals

This will help you work out exactly what you need to buy. It does take a little time, but it does prevent unnecessary buys. 

Cook in bulk and make use of your freezer

This not only reduces waste but it also helps save time. Cook extra portions of some family favourites that you can pull out of the freezer when you’re in a pinch. Read our article about getting the most out of your freezer to cut waste.

Start composting

Recycle your food waste and get some nutrient-rich mulch for your garden. What’s not to love?

Keep an eye on your fridge and cupboards

Clear out your fridge and cupboards regularly and check use-by dates. Put things that need to be used sooner at the front so they don’t end up in the bin. For more interesting articles on what you can to reduce food waste at home, check out the rest of our blog