How Food Waste is Recycled in Bristol

How Food Waste is Recycled in Bristol

Bristol’s food waste is collected by our recycling crews and taken to GENeco in Avonmouth. The plastic and compostable bags you use to line your caddy are removed and used to produce energy. The food waste is put into an ‘anaerobic digester’ – a bit of kit which acts like a giant stomach – and turned into methane-rich biogas. This biogas is used to generate more energy and the solid by-product of the anaerobic process is used as fertiliser for farms. In total, recycled food waste creates enough energy for around 6,500 homes in Bristol!


Keeping food waste caddy and bin

1. Keep your smaller caddy in an accessible place in the kitchen (the cupboard under the sink is ideal)

2. Line the caddy with newspaper, a compostable liner or a plastic bag to keep it clean.

3. Put all your food waste into the caddy.

4. When it’s full, or just before collection day, empty the caddy into the larger food waste bin that you can keep outdoors.

5. Place the large food waste bin out for collection every week at the kerbside with your black and green boxes. By doing this you are helping to generate gas and electricity for Bristol residents, as well as saving money for the city.


What is the difference between the food waste caddy and the food waste bin?

The food caddy is smaller and can be kept in your kitchen for easy access, it’s ideal for collecting food waste as it happens – pop all those peelings, scraps and leftovers straight in! When the caddy is full up you can transfer the contents to the larger food bin. The food bin is designed to be kept outside and is the one you put out for collection day.


Do I need to use both the food waste caddy and the food waste bin?

It’s up to you whether you use both the food caddy and the food bin, or just the bin. The important thing is that your food waste doesn’t end up in the general wheelie bin.


Using the smaller kitchen caddy means that some food waste is kept inside your home, it’s more hygienic than putting food waste in a general-purpose kitchen bin, but if you’re worried about smells you could skip the food caddy and put all your food waste to the larger outdoor food bin.


If you choose to do this, be sure to use the locking handle and keep the bin in a place where animals will have a hard time getting to it.


What can I use to line my food waste caddy?

There are lots of things you can use to line your caddy to keep it a bit cleaner. You can buy special compostable bags for this purpose but a folded newspaper, empty cereal box liner, a bread bag (plastic or paper) or an old plastic carrier bag will work just as well.


The bags will be removed by the sorting system before the food waste is recycled, but please don’t include any food packaging, compostable or otherwise.


It’s always a good idea to give the caddy a quick clean after emptying it and rinse the bin after collections, especially if you choose not to use a liner.


Do I need to line my food waste caddy with a compostable bag?

Compostable bags are not required in order to recycle your food. GENeco (the company that recycles Bristol’s food waste) separates any plastic from the food before it enters the anaerobic digester, including compostable bags.


What can I put in my food waste bin?

All kinds of food waste! This includes all cooked or uncooked food, unavoidable food waste such as coffee grounds or eggshells, plate scrapings, meat and dairy products. For full details on what can go into the food waste bin, download our guide to recycling at home.


What can't go in the food waste bin?

General household waste, compostable packaging, cardboard and garden waste are examples of what shouldn’t go into your food waste bin.


Can I compost my food waste instead?

We love the fact that more and more Bristolians are getting into composting. It’s a great alternative and will help create a nutrient-rich fertiliser for your garden. You can purchase a home composter from Bristol City Council and start turning all your uncooked food scraps (such as eggshells, coffee grinds and vegetable peelings) into compost for your plants!


Most compost bins are not suitable for meat and dairy products and some cooked foods, but all of this can be put into your food waste caddy. If you already compost, see your food waste bin as a supplement rather than a replacement to your composting.


Bristol Waste does not collect compost from residential properties, so it’s a good idea to know what you’ll do with it before you start composting.


I want to recycle my food but find compostable liners are too expensive.

Compostable liners aren’t required, you can use your spare plastic bags or even an empty bread bag. Out of bags? Newspaper is a great alternative, or go liner-free and give your caddie a quick rinse once it’s emptied.


What happens to food waste in Bristol?

Did you know that every tonne of food waste that’s diverted from the landfill can displace 0.6 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere? Recycling food waste is more important than ever, which is why we recently visited the GENeco plant in Avonmouth to witness the incredible process they use to transform leftover food into something useful.


What happens after you put your food waste caddy out for collection

Once you’ve put your food waste bin out for collection, it is collected by our crews and taken to the transfer station, where there are big containers. When these are full, they are transported it to the GENeco food recycling plant.


GENeco then remove any compostable or plastic bags before the food waste is fed into an anaerobic digester. Inside the digester, tiny micro-organisms can work their magic to break down the waste without oxygen. Through this process, they create a valuable resource: methane-rich biogas.


This biogas can be used in two ways: either to generate renewable electricity or to produce enriched biomethane, which goes into the gas grid to heat homes.


A solid by-product of the process, called “cake,” can also be used by farmers as a sustainable alternative to conventional fertilisers.


You can reuse any old bag to line your food bin

Compostable products, including bin liners, need oxygen to break down. As oxygen is not present during the anaerobic digestion process they need to be removed from the food waste before it can be processed.


GENeco remove compostable bags along with any other plastic they find, so it’s OK to line your caddy with an old cereal or bread bag and it saves a few quid, too!


Don’t let your leftover food go to waste

It’s amazing to see how GENeco can turn all sorts of food waste and liquid waste into something so valuable. Ultimately, your leftover apple cores can be turned into light and heat, and even help to grow new food.


We can all do our part to reduce food waste and help the environment. Whether it’s leftover fruits and vegetables or expired products – recycling your food waste is simple and easy. All you need is a food waste bin and the commitment to make a difference!


Recycling food waste is important, but it’s even better to avoid it in the first place. The average household spends more than £700 on wasted food. Luckily, small changes can add up to big savings.


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