Food waste collections

The university successfully trialled the collection of food waste in staff kitchens in the Arthur Lewis, Humanities Bridgford Street and John Garside buildings from 9th May 2022. Following on from this, food waste collections were installed in staff kitchens in the MECD Building A.

Collections have now been rolled out to staff kitchens across all academic buildings on the Main Campus.

What we have done

10L food waste caddies/containers have been placed in staff kitchen areas and staff are being encouraged to use these for any food waste rather than putting food in general waste bins. The caddies are emptied by the cleaning staff several times a week who remove the bags of food waste and replace them with new bags.

What can go in the food waste caddies

How food waste is collected

Bags of food waste are be taken to food waste wheelie bins at existing bin store locations by the cleaning staff and emptied by our waste contractors, Veolia (ES) UK Ltd

How food waste is collected/treated by our waste contractors

Food waste is collected by Veolia and taken to their Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Trafford Park to be bulked up, before being transferred to Anaerobic Digestion (AD) facilities in Warwickshire operated by Biogen. Their treatment process can be seen in the video to the right of this page. This AD process treats the food and produces a "digestate" that can be applied to land as well as electricity from the methane that is produced from the process and used as a fuel.

Why can’t compostable bags be used in the food caddies

Compostable bags do break down in certain composting facilities but our food waste is treated in plants using Anaerobic Digestion (AD). This process can only treat food waste so any packaging/other materials are removed at the beginning of the process via mechanical separation. Compostable bags are not compatible with this separation process as they are stretchy and clog up the machinery so we have to use clear plastic (LDPE) bags for the collections which are more easily removed from the process. These bags and any packing is removed and sent to refuse derived fuel plants for disposal/energy recovery.

Legal background

The Waste and Resources Strategy for England aims to reduce greenhouse gases associated with food waste via the following:

  • Introducing legislation for mandatory food waste collections - the Government has stated its intention to introduce compulsory separate food waste collections including from university premises via the Environment Act 2021. It is anticipated this requirement will come into force in 2023/4
  • The aim of eliminating food waste to landfill by 2030.

The impact of food waste

Globally, 25–30% of total food produced is lost or wasted, and food waste is estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to contribute 8-10% of total man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter after China and the USA*.

In the UK food waste from households and businesses is still around 9.5 million tonnes a year, 70% of which was intended to be consumed by people (30% being the ‘inedible' parts). The GHG emissions associated with this are around 25million tonnes CO2e which is equivalent to around 5% of UK emissions and the same as 10 million cars, or 1 in 3 cars on UK roads.

For the planet and future generations we need to reduce food waste by changing the way we buy, store and use it.

* Source: Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP)

Food waste prevention

You can help reduce food waste both on campus and at home by thinking about what you order. For University catered events, it is important to ensure that there are accurate numbers. If there is a change of numbers then informing catering staff of this can help reduce the amount of food waste. The University also has a list of approved charities who collect left over food from events and meetings. Event food waste guidance

At home meal planning and portion planning, alongside careful storage, can also prevent food waste. Find out more at:

Sustainable food

We are committed to delivering food services at the University which are environmentally sustainable. We have achieved a significant amount over recent years around the responsible sourcing of our produce, as well as the sharing of leftover food with local charities. You can also reduce your environmental impact when buying food at work or university. Find out more here.