Recycling benefit

Amount recycled
CO2 avoided
Estimated disposal saving
Reported as exported

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.

Recycling process

Food waste
Anaerobic digestion and microorganisms called ‘methanogens’ breaking down food waste

The most common way our food waste is treated is by using a process known as ‘anaerobic digestion’. Microorganisms called ‘methanogens’ break down food waste inside a tank


Biogas collected and used to generate ‘green energy’

It produces ‘biogas’, which is collected and used to generate ‘green energy’ that powers homes and communities across the nation

Bio-fertiliser that can be used in farming and for land regeneration

It also creates bio-fertiliser that can be used in farming and for land regeneration

Garden waste
Garden waste is taken to a composting facility

Garden waste is taken to a composting facility. It’s sorted and screened, and anything that can’t be composted is removed


Long pile called a windrow

It’s shredded and laid out in a long pile called a windrow to decompose into compost

Windrows are turned to allow more oxygen into the mixture

Windrows are turned to allow more oxygen into the mixture, to encourage the growth of bacteria and fungus – known as ‘microorganisms’ – which speeds up the composting process


60 degrees Celsius to kill any harmful pathogens, weeds, and plant diseases

It reaches around 60 degrees Celsius to kill any harmful pathogens, weeds, and plant diseases. Once completely broken down, the compost is used:


Garden waste
  • by farmers and growers to produce food
  • in parks and public gardens
  • as a soil conditioner in household gardens
Recycling process: Food Waste
Recycling process: Garden Waste

Where does organic waste recycling go?

Top countries (selected materials) - 2022/23

Top UK recycling destinations

Country Tonnes
Wales 225,434t
England 49,881t
Company Country Tonnes
Biogen Wales 36,869t
Welsh Water Wales 30,354t
Severn Trent Green Power Wales 20,192t
CWM Environmental Ltd Wales 17,557t
unspecified Wales 14,020t
Bryn Group Limited Wales 13,208t
3 C Waste Ltd England 11,900t
Greenfield Composting Site Wales 10,197t
Lawrence Bros Wales 7,271t
Newport City Council Wales 7,129t
Isle Of Anglesey County Council Wales 7,103t
Green Waste Company (Abergavenny) Limited Wales 7,001t

Top world recycling destinations

Company Country Tonnes
unspecified unspecified 852t