Recycling information

Organics waste includes garden waste, food waste and other forms of biodegradable waste. Much of this – food waste in particular – is avoidable, with 4.4 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste being thrown away each year at an average annual cost of £470 per family. This waste produces 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (or equivalent) emissions, comparable to the emissions produced by one in four cars on UK roads.

You can reduce the amount of food you throw out by learning more about food waste, how to make food last longer and how to dispose of food waste in an environmentally responsible way.

WRAP figures reveal that, in the UK, 95 per cent of local authorities operate a kerbside garden waste collection. In Wales, all local authorities provide this service, but 18 per cent charge for it. In terms of food waste collections, around 93 per cent of Welsh households have access to a food waste collection, as opposed to the UK average of 50 per cent.

When collected for recycling, organic waste can be put to a variety of uses.  Composting produces useful products such as biofertilisers and biogas, through in-vessel composting, open-air windrow composting, or anaerobic digestion (where organic matter is decomposed in a container without oxygen). Recycling just one tonne of food waste through anaerobic digestion can generate around 300kWh of energy – enough to charge around 5,500 iPads.

You can learn more about how to recycle organic waste, such as food waste and garden waste, on the Wales Recycles website.

Organic waste icon

Recycling benefit

Amount recycled 296,671t
CO2 avoided 17,800t
Estimated disposal saving £33,523,849

Recycling process

In-vessel/windrow Composting

  1. Collection: Food and garden waste is collected from the kerbside or recycling centres and taken to a composting facility.

  2. Shredding/Storing: The food waste is shredded and mixed with the garden waste, before being placed in either large sheds (vessels) where moisture content, air flow and temperature can be controlled, or heaps (windrows) no more than 1.5m high and extended lengthways.

  3. Heating/Turning: The waste is left in the vessels for seven days. Temperature probes ensure that there is sufficient heat to kill dangerous bacteria – it must achieve 60degC for two consecutive days. In windrow composting, the windrows are turned regularly so that all materials spend some time in the warm, moist centre of the heap.

  4. Maturation: The waste is then transferred to a maturation pad for final stage composting. The entire process takes about eight weeks.

  5. Finishing: The resulting compost is then used in parks, public gardens or in agriculture


Anaerobic digestion

  1. Collection: Food and garden waste is collected from the kerbside or recycling centres and taken to an anaerobic digestion facility.

  2. De-contamination: The food waste is tipped into a designated tipping area, where the material is inspected and contaminants are removed.

  3. Shredding and pasteurisation: The waste is then shredded and fed into the digestion process in sealed tanks called digesters. The material is then pasteurized to ensure all pathogens and bacteria are killed.

  4. Digestion: The digesters are completely sealed to create an oxygen free environment. The digesters are fed by a pumped pipework system. The material is digested at 55degC to produce biogas and a compost-like product (digestate). This process takes about a month.

  5. Gas extraction: Biogas is produced and extracted from the top of the digester. It is taken to a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit to generate energy. The heat is captured for on-site use, while the electricity provides on-site power and is sent to the local electricity network.

  6. Digestate: The remaining product is a nutrient-rich biofertiliser. This must meet PAS 110 standards to be used freely as a fertilizer.

Where does Wales’ Organic Waste recycling go?

Top 3 countries (selected materials)

Where does Wales’ Organic Waste recycling go?

Top 3 countries (selected materials)

Top 10 UK recycling destinations

Top world recycling destinations