Commercial food waste collection

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Commercial food waste

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, including:

Benefits of commercial food waste recycling

How can food waste segregation and collection help? Segregating and storing food waste separately might seem inconvenient, but it’s crucial for financial and environmental reasons.

Proper disposal reduces landfill tax, enhances recycling efficiency, and supports sustainable practices. Here are the top six benefits:

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.

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.

Food types you can recycle

Learn which commercial food types you can recycle to reduce waste and support the environment.

<h3>Fruits and Vegetables</h3>

Fruits and Vegetables

Includes peelings, cores, and scraps.

<h3>Bread and Bakery Items</h3>

Bread and Bakery Items

Stale or leftover bread, cakes, and pastries.

<h3>Dairy Products</h3>

Dairy Products

Cheese, yoghurt, and other dairy items.

<h3>Meat and Fish</h3>

Meat and Fish

Cooked or uncooked, including bones.

<h3>Coffee Grounds and Tea Bags</h3>

Coffee Grounds and Tea Bags

Used grounds and tea bags.

<h3>Grains and Pasta</h3>

Grains and Pasta

Cooked or uncooked grains, pasta, and rice.

Food waste that can’t be recycled

While many food items are recyclable, there are several types that cannot be processed due to contamination, material composition, or processing limitations. Here’s a list of food types you should avoid recycling.



Soups, sauces, and cooking oils.

<h3>Plastic Packaging</h3>

Plastic Packaging

Wrappers, bags, and containers.

<h3>Glass and Metal</h3>

Glass and Metal

Bottles, jars, and cans.

<h3>Non-Food Items</h3>

Non-Food Items

Paper towels, napkins, and plastic utensils.

<h3>Large Bones</h3>

Large Bones

Typically too tough to process.



From seafood like oysters and crabs.

Commercial food waste bins

Various bins are used for commercial food waste collection, each designed for specific needs. It’s crucial to use appropriate bins, especially for raw meat.

Standard commercial kitchen bins are unsuitable for disposing of raw meat. According to trading standards, raw meat must be stored in a clean, lidded, leakproof container labelled “not fit for human consumption.” This ensures safety and compliance with regulations.

Picture source: Nisbets

<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.

<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.

<h3>Open Top Bins</h3>

Open Top Bins

Open-top bins allow quick and effortless disposal of food waste without opening 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.

<h3>Standard 240L Bin</h3>

Standard 240L Bin

Most businesses with a food waste collection service will utilise a 240-litre standard wheelie bin for commercial kitchen bin collection. This bin type is suitable for various kinds of food waste, including leftovers, peels, cooked meat, and coffee grounds.

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.



Cafes contribute to food waste primarily through over-preparation and unsold products. Many cafes prepare fresh items daily, leading to excess that often goes to waste.

Waste management in cafes



Pubs often face food waste due to the need to maintain a diverse menu of fresh food options.. This results in excess ingredients and uneaten food from patrons, contributing significantly to overall waste.

Pub waste management



Restaurants must stock fresh ingredients daily to provide a variety of dishes, leading to inevitable food waste from unused and leftover ingredients and uneaten customer leftovers.

Restaurant waste collection

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 collection frequency. Begin today by entering your business postcode into our form at the top of this page.

Anaerobic digestion facility

Commercial waste disposal providers use anaerobic digestion facilities to convert food waste into biogas. In these plants, food waste is stored in large, oxygen-free tanks.

The controlled environment encourages microorganisms to decompose food waste and generate biogas, a carbon-neutral and renewable energy source for heating homes.

It produces a nutrient-rich bio-fertiliser suitable for agriculture.


Commercial waste disposal providers run large-scale composting sites. This process is similar to home composting but on a much larger scale to produce high-quality compost for use in agriculture.

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.

Commercial food waste hierarchy

Business waste regulations in the UK require businesses generating food waste to follow the following waste hierarchy.

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 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 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.


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.

How often should food waste be collected from a business?

The frequency depends on the volume and type of food waste generated. Food waste can start to smell if stored for too long.

Most food waste collection firms offer daily collections. Consult with your waste collection firm to establish a schedule that best meets your business’s needs.

Typically, collections can range from daily to weekly. Consult with your waste management provider to establish a schedule that meets your needs and complies with local regulations.