Bristol domestic waste food collection service

April 24, 2013

Contributor: Bristol

Workshop: Resource efficiency – CO2 reduction /  Food/packaging waste

Bristol operates a weekly domestic kerbside waste food collection that is composted in-vessel for use on farmland, or anaerobically digested to provide energy .

Research shows that annual UK household food and drink waste has fallen by 1.1 million tonnes (13%) over a three year period from 8.3 million tonnes to an estimated 7.2 million tonnes, equivalent to around a fifth of all food and drink purchased.

Avoidable household food and drink waste (i.e. food and drink that could have been eaten) has reduced by 950,000 tonnes, or 18%, from 5.3 to 4.4 million tonnes annually.


The environmental impact of avoidable household food and drink waste is now around 17 million tonnes of CO2e (equivalent to the emissions of 1 in 5 cars on UK roads) and 4% of the UK total water footprint. The savings associated with the reduction in avoidable food and drink waste amount to around 3.6 million tonnes of CO2e a year, and almost a billion tonnes of water a year.

Household food and drink waste remains the single largest proportion of UK food and drink waste arisings (almost 50%), and more than 60% of this is avoidable – so there remains much more to do.

Bristol has provided a weekly domestic kerbside waste food collection since 2006. Residual waste has been collected fortnightly since 2006 with smaller waste bins introduced in 2012 to help encourage the growing list of materials recycled. Plastics were added to the list in 2012, formerly only limited collection points were provided eg in the car parks of large supermarkets.

Total household waste has consistently fallen since the peak of 189,386 tonnes in 2005/6 to 148,940 tonnes in 2012/13). Recycling rates have consistently improved the current 2012/13 figures are recycling 30% (16.2% 2005/6), composting 19.6% (1.3%), landfill 26.3% (82.4%)



Resource Futures, based in Bristol, are working with Ipsos Mori to understand how and why food is wasted.  Initial evidence suggests that separate waste food collection raises awareness and results in less wastage.


This is also listed by Bristol City Council’s Waste Management see below:

1)    Separate food waste collections highlighted food waste to residents, who then took steps to reduce.

2)    Many manufacturers have signed voluntary agreements to reduce packaging waste.  It also makes economic sense to do this.  As a result, many items packaging have been redesigned to be as lightweight as possible.  Miniaturisation has also helped in reducing the amount of materials (and therefore waste) used for producing goods (e.g. mobile phones, PCs, etc.).

3)    Seasonal variations of certain wastes (e.g. garden waste) are always seen.  However, unseasonal weather patterns have an impact on waste arisings.  For example, we’ve just had the coldest March in 50 years.  This has resulted in a 10% reduction in retail sales and plant growth has also been restricted.  Both these have impacted waste arisings, again as less waste is being produced.

4)    The continuing recession:  As a result of high unemployment, increasing inflation, stagnating wage rises, etc., less money is available to residents to spend on items.  Residents are also having to be smarter in what they buy.  This results in less waste arisings as less goods are sold.  We’ve also seen an increase in people growing their own, rather than going to the supermarket, to save money and this has a knock-on effect of producing less food and packaging waste.


Increasing numbers of flats are being built in Bristol and alongside small urban gardens limit demand for domestic composting in Bristol. Promoting a routine food collection service means substantial quantities of food waste can now be used to produce energy, though this inevitably reduces the emphasis on home produced compost and the educational benefit.


A substantial programme was launched to introduce the scheme with significant publicity to encourage and promote the necessary cultural and behavioural changes. The programme included considerable support where necessary to encourage individuals to comply. Bristol City Council’s annual Quality of Life survey collected information on how Bristol residents found the process.


What approaches have Partner cities taken to this issue and what are the results?