Food - reduce waste, recycle food

Food ingredients

Food is a fundamental part of each of our lives and how we treat the food we buy and eat can have a significant impact on our planet and carbon footprint. When cooking, shopping for or enjoying a meal with your friends or family, this guide provides you with the facts and tips you need to start a conversation on how to make the most of your food and reduce your food waste along the way.

Meal plan with ingredients


If food waste were a country, it would be the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Around one third of the food we produce is wasted worldwide every year. That’s 1.3 billion tonnes of food thrown away annually, generating about 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Scotland has a food waste problem. In 2014 Scottish households threw away around 600,000 tonnes of food and drink waste. The bread that Scotland wastes in one year could wrap around the world twice and the weight of the potatoes wasted in Scotland each year is the same as 63 kelpies.

When food waste ends up in landfill, it doesn’t have the oxygen it needs to decompose and instead releases methane gas for decades. Methane is much more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide.

Planning and smarter food shopping can reduce your food waste, and it’s also estimated the average Scottish household could save up to £440 each year.

Food recycling bin


What are the questions you can ask yourself, your family and your friends to help reduce food waste and maximise food planning to save money and carbon emissions? We’ve put together a few conversation starters on the topic:

Shopping for your food

  • How can you avoid wasting food? Do you always shop with a list? Are there easy ways to use up leftovers? Discuss tips.
  • How do you travel to the shop for groceries? Have you ever thought about walking, cycling or using public transport to get there?

Storing your food

  • What temperature do you keep your fridge at? Turning your fridge down to below 5 degrees will keep food and drink fresh for longer.

Avoiding food waste

  • Think about how much food you throw away each week. Are there any particular foods that you tend to waste often? Are there any particular foods you throw out that could be recycled?

Recycling your food waste

  • Do you know where your nearest food waste recycling point is? 
  • Do you know what food can be composted?
  • Do you use food waste recycling points? Or do you have a natural composting area outdoors? This means you can recycle any unavoidable food waste.
Young dad showing daughter how to recycle


The Scottish Government has committed to reducing food waste by 33% by 2025 (compared to 2013 levels). So far, we’ve invested £30 million in food waste prevention with the amount of food waste going to landfill in Scotland currently at its lowest level.

We’re helping more people than ever to recycle their food waste. 80% of households now have access to food recycling collections and take-up of household food waste recycling increased from 26% in 2012 to 55% in 2017.

In the last year, we've announced the first of our landmark investments from the £70m Recycling Improvement Fund. Over £23m has been awarded to a range of local authorities to increase the quantity and quality of recycling, and modernise and improve waste and recycling services for households. This marks the beginning of one of the biggest investments in recycling in Scotland in a generation.

Find out more and discover what more you can do on our Eating Greener page.