When our food waste is collected by our local council and taken away to be recycled, where does it all go?
How does unavoidable food waste like banana skins, coffee grounds, apple cores, and our unwanted or out-of-date scraps and leftovers get converted into green energy which can help power Scotland’s homes? On this page, you'll discover exactly what happens to our recycled food waste in Scotland...
The process used to recycle your food waste into energy is known as anaerobic digestion. Here’s how it all works...
When your local council collects the contents of your food caddy, they take them to an anaerobic digestion plant to be recycled. Your food waste is emptied out onto a big conveyor belt and any non-recyclable items such as plastic bags are taken out. From here, the food waste goes into an anaerobic digestion tank.
What happens next?
Inside the anaerobic digestion tank, the food waste is mixed together. Then, the bacteria get to work! Tiny microbes break down the food, and this natural process creates methane. However, rather than the methane escaping into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change - as it does when food rots in landfill - it is converted into biogas - a clean energy source. This renewable energy can be used as heat or electricity to power many things, including our homes and household appliances!
By recycling food waste, we are helping create a source of renewable energy that can be used to help power Scotland’s homes, businesses and communities! Recycling just one truckload of food waste can generate enough green energy to power over 20,000 TV’s for a whole hour!*
Food waste to fertiliser
The anaerobic digestion process also produces a fertiliser for soil, which is like compost. This fertiliser can be used by farms as a natural source of nutrition for their crops! What’s more, it is much better for the planet than artificial fertilisers which use huge amounts of energy to make.
Some households in Scotland have to dispose of their food waste along with garden waste – this is known as ‘co-mingling’. The food and garden waste is collected and also taken to the anaerobic digestion plant, but instead of being turned into energy, it is recycled into compost through a process called ‘in-vessel composting’.
In-vessel composting involves mixing food waste with garden waste by shredding it up and composting it. The material is left outside to mature before going on to be used as soil conditioner.
Helping Scotland to be greener
The creation of green energy and fertiliser from food waste means that recycling food waste used in Scotland is a circular process, which reduces our environmental impact and is much better for our planet than sending food waste to landfill. By recycling your kitchen food waste through your local council scheme, you are helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. What's more, you will be transforming your food waste into natural fertiliser for farming, and into green energy which can be used in homes, schools, businesses and more!
*Source – Recycle for Wales