Commercial food waste collection

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Food waste collection for businesses

Businesses that produce, handle, or treat food products have a statutory obligation to prevent unnecessary food waste by having effective waste management strategies in place. This guide provides informative tips on the segregation and collection of food waste to help reduce your commercial waste costs.


Environmental benefits of commercial food waste disposal

Segregating and storing food waste separately may seem like an unnecessary hassle, but there are important environmental reasons for disposing of commercial food waste in this manner. We have summarised the three most important environmental factors.

Carbon Footprint Reduction

Carbon Footprint Reduction

Food waste disposed of in general waste ends up in a landfill where it decomposes in such a way that it produces methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. Methane is estimated to have 25x the warming power of carbon dioxide when present in the atmosphere.

Renewable Energy Generation

Renewable Energy Generation

There are over 100 operational anaerobic digestion plants in the UK that utilise food waste as fuel to produce green biogas. This biogas will be a necessary substitute for natural gas (a fossil fuel) in the UK’s transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

The Circular Food Economy

The Circular Food Economy

In food production, it is possible to create a circular economy where food waste is utilised as a feedstock for producing more food. Industrial-scale composting sites convert food waste into high-quality compost, which is then used in agriculture.

Financial benefits of commercial food waste disposal

Aside from the environmental benefits of commercial food waste collection, there is a clear business case. Our experts outline the three most significant direct financial benefits of commercial food waste disposal.

Waste Cost Savings

Waste Cost Savings

Disposing of a wheelie bin’s worth of commercial food waste is cheaper than disposing of an equivalent volume of general business waste. Save money for your business by segregating food waste and disposing of it separately.

Compliance with Regulations

Compliance with Regulations

In recognition of the environmental consequences of landfill food waste, the devolved UK governments have introduced legal requirements for businesses to minimise food waste. Read on for information on food waste regulations and compliance.

Improved Brand Image

Improved Brand Image

Minimising and separately disposing of food waste significantly enhances a company’s brand image, showcasing its commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability.

The commercial food waste collection process

Here’s a summary of the steps a business can take to ensure that food waste can be transformed into green biofuel or compost, in line with the government’s statutory guidance on dealing with surplus food waste.

Reducing food waste

The best way to manage food waste is to eliminate unnecessary food waste production. The best strategies for reducing food waste depend on your company’s specific operations. Below are some excellent resources for eliminating food waste that apply to a range of sectors:

Collection, segregation and storage

It is best practice to collect and segregate food waste at the source. Place designated food waste bins in kitchens and other areas where your business generates food waste. Ensure these bins are clearly labelled and educate your team about the importance of food waste disposal to maximise collection efficiency.

Commercial food waste collection providers will supply your business with food waste storage containers for the duration of your disposal contract. Using a separate waste container helps your business avoid contaminating food waste with other types of waste during storage.

Food waste collections

Commercial food waste disposal providers will empty your food waste containers a predetermined number of times each month. Depending on your business’s location and your chosen provider, the waste company will transport your food waste to either an anaerobic digestion or a composting facility.

Your commercial waste collection provider will issue your company with a Waste Transfer Notice. This document serves as legal proof that a licensed waste provider has been contracted to remove and appropriately dispose of your commercial food waste.

To set up a commercial food waste collection contract, you need to determine the number of commercial waste bins required, their sizes, and the frequency of collection. Begin today by entering your business postcode into our form at the top of this page.

Anaerobic digestion facility

Commercial waste disposal providers operate anaerobic digestion facilities, which convert food waste into biogas on an industrial scale. At these plants, food waste is stored in large, oxygen-free tanks (hence ‘anaerobic’). The conditions within the tanks are meticulously controlled to maximise the activity of natural microorganisms that break down the organic material. This decomposition process generates biogas, a carbon-neutral and renewable alternative to natural gas used for heating homes across the country. It also produces a nutrient-rich solid bio-fertiliser that is suitable for use in agriculture.


Commercial waste disposal providers operate industrial-scale composting sites. This process is broadly similar to using a small compost bin in your garden, but it is conducted on a much larger scale to produce high-quality compost. Efficient aeration of the organic matter is crucial in industrial composting, and it is achieved through one of the following methods:

  • Windrow composting – Food waste is arranged into long rows, which are regularly turned to facilitate aeration.
  • Aerated static pile composting – Food waste is mixed with wood chips, and air is forced through the mixture using fans to ensure proper aeration.
  • In-vessel composting – The composting process occurs in large containers where temperature, moisture, and aeration levels are carefully optimised for best results.

Source: University of Colorado Boulder – What is industrial composting

Common industries that contribute to commercial food waste

The leading industries contributing to food waste are involved in the food supply chain, spanning from farms to the point where food is sold to consumers, either in supermarkets or restaurants. Here are the top three industries responsible for food waste.

<h3>Food production</h3>

Food production

The UN estimates that 13% of food produced is lost between harvest and retail. The UK’s unpredictable climate and cosmetic standards adhered to by British retailers make this figure even higher.

United Nations: Reducing food loss and waste



Supermarkets contribute to food waste by frequently overstocking perishable goods to meet customer expectations, and by adhering to the UK’s stringent regulations regarding the non-sale of food items that have reached their sell-by dates.

Waste management in retail

<h3>Food and beverage</h3>

Food and beverage

UK restaurants, hotels, and pubs are required to purchase fresh food daily, in anticipation of their customers’ menu choices. This process inevitably results in unusable ingredients, in addition to food left over by customers.

Waste management in food and beverage

What types of bins are needed for commercial food waste collection?

Various types of commercial food waste bins exist, and below, we delve into their distinctions.

It’s important to note that standard commercial kitchen bins are not appropriate for disposing of raw meat.

Trading standards mandate that raw meat must be stored in a clean, lidded, leakproof container and be labelled as ‘not fit for human consumption’.

Source: Business Companion Trading Standard

<h3>Worktop Container Bins</h3>

Worktop Container Bins

Countertop bins offer a convenient way to quickly dispose of food waste while cooking or preparing meals. Their compact size makes them easy to place on kitchen countertops, providing immediate access for discarding scraps and trimmings. Countertop bins often feature lids to contain odours and prevent pests. This ensures a clean and hygienic food preparation area. They require frequent emptying into larger bins to maintain cleanliness and efficiency.

<h3>Pedal Bin</h3>

Pedal Bin

Pedal bins often come with lids that can be opened hands-free, reducing the risk of contamination from handling. The pedal mechanism allows for easy and convenient food waste disposal, even when hands are occupied. Pedal bins come in larger sizes suitable for commercial use, offering ample capacity to handle significant amounts of food waste generated in a busy environment. They must be emptied into your larger commercial food waste bin for collection.

<h3>Open Top Bins</h3>

Open Top Bins

Open-top bins allow for quick and effortless disposal of food waste without the need to open a lid, making them convenient for busy commercial kitchen environments where efficiency is paramount. The open-top design provides clear visibility of the bin’s contents, making it easier for kitchen staff to identify and sort different types of food waste. These bins will need to be emptied into your commercial food waste bin for collection.

<h3>Standard 240L Bin</h3>

Standard 240L Bin

Most businesses that have a food waste collection service will utilise a 240-litre standard wheelie bin for the commercial kitchen bin collection. This type of bin is suitable for various kinds of food waste, including leftovers, peels, cooked meat, and coffee grounds. The bin’s versatility allows businesses to collect different types of food waste without the need for separate containers, making disposal more convenient. Despite its large capacity, the bin remains manageable for staff to handle and transport, thanks to its wheeled design

Commercial food waste regulations and compliance

Businesses of all sizes are required to follow specific regulations and compliance procedures when managing their waste. However, there are additional rules for companies that sell or distribute food. Below is our summary, along with links to the relevant regulatory documents.

Regulations on disposing of different types of food waste

The link below offers a detailed list of food classifications with restrictions on their disposal. However, here is a brief summary:

  • Foods that cannot be sent to landfill – Raw meat, fish, seafood, and other untreated animal products are classified as a high-risk food group and cannot be disposed of as general waste.
  • Foods that cannot be used as animal feed – No animal products or food waste produced by restaurants or commercial kitchens can be used as animal feed.

Food products that do not fall into these categories may be disposed of through food recycling, landfill, or used as farm animal feed under certain conditions

Source: – How food businesses must dispose of food and former foodstuffs.

Statutory guidance on managing food waste

In the UK, the government provides statutory rules outlining a waste hierarchy for businesses or organisations that handle, treat, or produce food products.

The waste hierarchy is summarised as follows:

  1. Prevent surplus and waste in your business. Take steps to minimise unnecessary food waste production through optimisation of business processes.
  2. Redistribute surplus food and drink. Attempt to donate any food that is fit for human consumption to local food banks and other charities.
  3. Make animal feed from former food. Low-risk food waste can be used as animal feed, subject to local authority registration.
  4. Process surplus food to make biomaterials. A niche option in certain industries where some types of food types can converted directly into packaging materials, soaps or leather. Or coffee shops converting spent coffee grounds into biofuel.
  5. Recycle – anaerobic digestion and composting. Use a commercial waste collection service to take your food waste to one of these facilities.
  6. Recover waste by landspreading. A process carried on the by-product of anaerobic digestion that will be arranged by your local waste management providers.
  7. Recover energy from waste. A waste incineration facility can burn food waste to generate electricity used by food waste collection providers in the absence of the facilities above.
  8. Dispose – send to landfill. Include food waste in your general business waste disposals. This waste will be sent to a landfill facility by your waste collection provider.

The detailed devolved government guidance can be found in the links:

Commercial food waste – FAQs

Our waste experts answer your commonly asked questions on commercial food waste below:

Can businesses save money by adopting commercial food waste collection?

Yes, by arranging separate commercial food waste collection, your business can significantly reduce the volume of general business waste it produces. General business waste is typically sent to landfill, incurring landfill taxes and making it the most expensive type of commercial waste.

For further reading, here’s a link to our guide on commercial waste collection costs.

How can businesses get started with commercial food waste collection?

In most places in the UK, several commercial waste providers can arrange for food waste collection. Get quotes today for your business using our commercial waste quotes service.