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Frequently Asked Questions about Food Recycling

About the service

Why is Aberdeen City Council collecting food waste separately?

  • We are rapidly running out of landfill space in the UK and need to recycle and compost more of the waste that we produce. Nearly a quarter of household waste is cooked and uncooked food waste. Food waste generates the harmful greenhouse gas, methane, if it is disposed of at landfill. The Scottish Government has introduced legislation that will ban food waste from landfill within a few years, so we need to find an alternative disposal route. Under this new service, food waste will be taken to a facility called an in-vessel composting plant where it is heat-treated and turned into compost.

How will my food waste be collected?

  • Each household will receive a small green kitchen caddy and a supply of biodegradable liners. You should put a liner in your caddy and then place your food waste in it. Once the liner is full, take it out of the caddy, tie it at the top and put it in the communal food waste bins located near your home. The caddy and liner system is designed to keep the collection of your food waste clean and odour free.

Why do we have food recycling bins when we don't have bins for recycling other things?

  • We're putting in food recycling bins first because the new regulations mean that we must make this service available to everyone in the city and we have government funding to do this. We know that recycling services need to be improved so that people living in flats can easily recycle a range of materials, and we are in the process of introducing mixed recycling bins across the city. To find out more about the recycling services in your area, please phone 03000 200 292 or look at the Household Waste and Recycling page.

How to use the service

Where does food waste come from?

  • Any food that you can't or don't want to eat is food waste and can be recycled. This can include:
    • Waste from preparing food, such as vegetable peelings or egg shells
    • Leftovers from meals
    • Out of date food left in the fridge or cupboards

What food waste will be collected?

  • You can recycle the following items in your kitchen caddy and communal food waste bin:
    • Meat and fish – raw and cooked including bones
    • Dairy products including eggs, egg shells, butter and cheese
    • Raw and cooked vegetables and fruit
    • Bread, cakes and pastries
    • Rice, pasta and beans
    • Uneaten food from your plates and dishes
    • Out of date food from the fridge or cupboards
    • Tea and coffee grounds

Is there anything I can't put in the food waste collection?

  • We cannot collect the following items as they would cause contamination:
    Plastic bags and packaging of any sort
    • Liquids
    • Any oil and fat (including solid fats such as lard)
    • Animal faeces
    • Cardboard
    • Nappies
    • Pet litter
    • Pet food
    • Animal bedding
    • Foil or cling film

Can I recycle liquids like milk and soup in my caddy?

  • Please do not recycle any liquids in your caddy. If there is too much liquid in the liner, it could leak or burst when you take it out of the caddy.

Can I use liners for my kitchen caddy?

  • Yes, using approved biodegradable liners might make it easier for you to keep your caddy clean. You can also line your caddy with newspaper or kitchen roll, which is biodegradable, or simply rinse it out after emptying it. The caddies are dishwasher proof.

How do I get more liners?

Can I use biodegradable plastic bags as liners?

  • No, you can't use plastic bags of any kind. Only approved biodegradable liners, which are made from corn starch or paper should be used to line your caddy. If you use the approved liners supplied by the Council, our collectors will know that the bag is fully biodegradable to the necessary standard. They cannot collect food waste in any other type of bag.

Can I wrap food waste in foil or in plastic bags?

  • No, please do not put any type of packaging such as plastic, foil, cling film or cardboard in the container. This type of material would contaminate the process. You can recycle kitchen foil in your black box, or in the red-lidded bin at your local recycling point. Most large supermarkets accept plastic bags for recycling.

Where should I keep my caddy?

  • You can keep your caddy wherever you like. Most people keep theirs in the kitchen, so it is easy to access when they need to dispose of food waste.

How big is the caddy?

  • The caddy has a 7-litre capacity and the dimensions are as follows:
    • 36 cm high with the handle raised.
    • 23.2 cm high with the handle flush with the lid.
    • 27 cm wide at its greatest point.  

What if I don't have room for the caddy?

  • The caddy is quite small and takes up very little room. It is designed to sit on the kitchen worktop or under the sink for ease of access.

Won't my caddy get dirty and smelly?

  • It shouldn't, provided that you empty it regularly and keep it clean. Food waste can be put inside the liners that the Council supply or wrapped in newspaper or kitchen roll. Always keep the caddy lid closed when not in use. If your caddy gets dirty, swill it out with disinfectant or bicarbonate of soda after you've emptied it. If necessary, you could place a newspaper in the base of the caddy to soak up excess liquids.

Why does the kitchen caddy have holes in it? Won't the food waste smell? 

  • The vents in the kitchen caddy are designed to allow air to circulate, helping to prevent the food from sweating and accelerating the decomposition. So the design actually helps to prevent smells. The food waste shouldn't smell if the caddy is emptied regularly.

What about smells, bugs, germs, vermin and flies?

  • If you keep the caddy clean, use a liner and keep the lid closed, there should no problem with smells, vermin or flies. Your caddy is designed to prevent smells escaping if you use a liner. A study in 2006 showed no evidence of health issues with any waste disposal scheme, and other food waste recycling schemes operate across the country with no problems.  

Won't the communal food waste bin attract seagulls?

  • Your new communal food waste bin is a solid, robust container with a secure, self-closing lid. Seagulls won't be able to access the contents of the bin.

I don't have time to recycle – why should I use this service?

  • Food waste makes up nearly a quarter of all household waste by weight and can be turned into useful compost. We have designed this service so it is easy to use. All you need to do is put your food  in the food recycling bin instead of your usual rubbish bin. Once you become used to putting your waste in the kitchen caddy and communal food recycling bin it will soon become second nature. By taking part in the scheme you will be helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by food waste at landfill sites. Legislation requires councils to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste being sent to landfill or incur financial penalties. You will therefore be helping to keep Council Tax bills down by diverting food waste from landfill.

I don't produce a lot of food waste – why should I use the service?

  • Even if you only produce a little bit of food waste, it is still worth recycling it as it diverts waste from landfill, saves the council money and helps the environment. Once you start recycling, you may find you have more food waste than you thought you would. Leftovers from meals, waste from preparing food and out of date food from the fridge or cupboards can all be recycled.


How often should I put the food waste out for collection?

  • You can put your full liners out as often as you like. Your communal food recycling bin will be emptied initially on a weekly basis.

Can I put food in with my normal household waste?

  • Please recycle your food if you can. Food waste is a resource that can be used to make a new product. Also, local authorities face financial penalties if they do not meet targets to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste sent to landfill.

I live in a property that has a bin chute. How will the service be provided to me?

  • Communal food recycling bins are located near to the entrance to your property. The liners when full are no larger than a loaf of bread and should not cause any real handling problems when being carried.

How can I report any issues with the external food recycling bin?

What will happen to the food waste?

  • It will be taken to an in-vessel composting facility in Aberdeenshire that is fully licensed to accept all types of food waste. The waste is placed in an enclosed vessel where heat from the composting process is used to break down the organic matter above a certain temperature. The whole facility is designed and constructed in order to be safe and comply with strict regulations. This has been tried and tested successfully in various parts of the country. The process produces compost that meets the PAS100 standard which is used by local farmers and is available for the public to buy.

Will the compost be sold to the public?

What are the benefits of recycling food?

  • Recycling food is good for the environment as it means that the waste can be used to make compost instead of being sent to landfill. Recycling food also saves the council money as there is less to pay in landfill tax. This means that there is more money available to spend on other services.

Home composting

Why can't I home compost all food waste?

  • Food waste such as fruit and vegetable peelings, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds can be placed in home compost bins. Anything that has been cooked or that contains products derived from an animal should not be placed in home compost bins because it will smell and can attract vermin. You can buy compost bins at DIY stores, garden centres or online.

Should I stop composting at home?

  • No, don't stop! Home composting is still the best way to deal with garden waste as well as a lot of uncooked food waste, such as fruit and vegetable peelings. Cooked food and meat should not be put into normal home composting bins as they can encourage unwanted vermin. However, specialist units (Green Johanna, Green Cone) are available that allow you to compost cooked food and meat at home.

Will I need to use this scheme if I compost at home already?

  • We would encourage you to continue composting at home. However, we collect all meat, fish, bones, cooked food and dairy products using the food waste container, which are items you should not put in with your compost at home.

Where can I find out more about home composting?


Back to the  Household Waste and Recycling homepage.