Takeaway Waste Guide 2024

takeaway products

Bins overflowing, unpleasant odours lingering – these are all signs of a less-than-ideal waste disposal system in your takeaway.

This practical guide tackles the issue head-on, offering UK takeaway owners clear-cut solutions for efficient waste management.

Discover how to segregate waste streams effectively, choose the right size and number of bins, and find a reputable waste collection company.

By implementing these strategies, you’ll not only save money and comply with regulations but also contribute to a more sustainable future for your business and the environment.

Table of Contents

Limit Food Waste Storage

Food waste scrapings and peelings

Unlike other waste streams, food scraps pose a unique challenge. Storing them for extended periods attracts pests and creates unpleasant odours.

Here’s how different takeaway types can manage food waste storage.

Indian Takeaway

Indian takeaway

Vegetable trimmings, leftover rice, and meat scraps should be disposed of regularly.

Consider offering smaller portion sizes or introducing a “bring your own container” option for leftover curries.

Fish and Chip Shop

Fish and chips takeaway

Scraps from preparing fish and batter, along with used cooking oil, require frequent collection.

If possible, explore options to donate leftover chips to charities or use them for staff meals the next day.

Pizza Takeaway

Couple drinking wine and eating pizza on the floor of their living room

Uneaten pizza crusts and vegetable toppings should be binned after each service.

Analyse portion sizes and consider offering different crust options to reduce food waste.

Frequent Waste Collections are Key

Selection of Indian takeaway dishes

To avoid unpleasant odours and pest infestations, organise frequent collections for all your waste bins.

Here’s a breakdown of common takeaway waste streams and their disposal methods in the UK:

  • General Waste: Packaging materials like cardboard pizza boxes, plastic cutlery, and takeaway containers generally fall under general waste.
    Ensure these bins are emptied regularly. Look for recycling alternatives or sustainable packaging whenever possible – for example, switching to paper bags or biodegradable containers.
  • Food Waste: Food scraps, vegetable peelings, and leftover ingredients should be collected frequently for composting or anaerobic digestion facilities.
    Explore partnering with a local composting company that collects food waste and turns it into nutrient-rich compost for gardens.
  • Recycling: Cardboard beverage holders, paper menus, glass bottles and plastic bottles can be collected for recycling after being sorted into designated bins.
    Clearly label your recycling bins to avoid contamination and encourage staff and customers to dispose of items correctly.
    Takeaway waste can be a major cause of ocean plastic pollution if not disposed of correctly. Always follow the guidelines of your bin provider.
  • Waste Oil: Used cooking oil from frying fish and chips or chicken needs separate collection for processing into biofuel.
    Look for licensed waste oil collectors who can safely remove and recycle the oil into biodiesel.

Invest in the Right Takeaway Waste Bins

Three different coloured 240L wheelie bins

Using the appropriate bins for each waste stream is crucial for efficient disposal and proper recycling.

Here are some examples:

  • Small, Lidded Bins: For food waste prep areas in the kitchen, use small, lidded bins to prevent odours and contain spills.
    Invest in bins that are easy to clean and disinfect to maintain hygiene standards.
  • Larger Wheelie Bins: For general waste and recycling, invest in larger wheelie bins with lids and locks to deter pests and keep waste secure.
    Choose a reputable waste collection company that offers different-sized bins to cater to your specific needs.
  • Separate Food Waste Bin: A designated food waste bin encourages staff to segregate scraps for composting or anaerobic digestion.
    Clearly label the bin and train staff on proper food waste disposal procedures.

Choosing A Waste Management Plan For Your Takeaway

Selecting the ideal bin size and collection frequency depends on the volume of waste your takeaway generates.

Here’s how to make an informed decision:

  • Analyse Your Waste: Monitor your waste output for a week to understand the quantity of each waste stream (general waste, food waste, recycling).
  • Consider Takeaway Type: The type of takeaway you operate influences waste volume. For instance, a pizza takeaway might require a larger general waste bin compared to a salad bar.
  • Contact Waste Collection Companies: Waste collection companies can advise on bin sizes and collection schedules based on your waste analysis.
    They often offer flexible options to cater to fluctuating waste volumes.

Number of Bins Required

The number of bins you need depends on the waste streams you generate.

Here’s a general guideline:

  • Minimum of Three: Most takeaways require at least three bins: one for general waste, one for food waste, and one for mixed recycling.
  • Segregation is Key: Invest in additional bins for specific waste streams if required, such as a separate bin for used cooking oil or cardboard. This promotes better segregation and simplifies recycling.

What Goes in the General Waste Bin?

General waste bins are for non-recyclable and non-compostable items.

Here are some examples:

  • Takeaway containers (if not compostable or recyclable)

  • Plastic cutlery (unless a separate recycling stream exists)

  • Soiled paper towels and tissues

  • Food-stained cardboard (not suitable for composting or recycling)

  • Hygiene products

Common Takeaway Waste Disposal Mistakes

Red wheelie bins overflowing
  • Mixing Waste Streams: Contaminated recycling bins with food waste or general waste render them unusable for recycling. Train staff on proper waste segregation.
  • Storing Food Waste for Extended Periods: Food scraps attract pests and create unpleasant odours. Ensure frequent food waste collections.
  • Not Using Designated Oil Containers: Used cooking oil should never be poured down the drain. Invest in a designated container for safe collection and recycling.
  • Neglecting Bin Lid Maintenance: Broken or loose bin lids allow pests to access waste and create unsanitary conditions. Regularly check and repair bin lids.

Choosing a Safe & Licensed Waste Carrier

Partnering with a licensed waste carrier ensures your waste is disposed of responsibly and complies with UK regulations.

Here’s how to choose a reliable company:

  • Check for a Waste Carrier Licence: Every legitimate waste carrier must hold a valid licence issued by the Environment Agency. You can verify a company’s licence online.
  • Compare Quotes and Services: Obtain quotes from several waste collection companies, comparing prices, bin sizes, and collection frequencies.
  • Read Reviews and Ask Questions: Research online reviews and ask potential waste carriers about their experience with takeaways and their recycling processes.

Reducing Takeaway Waste Disposal Costs

Here are some strategies to minimise your takeaway’s waste disposal expenses:

  • Minimise Food Waste: Implement strategies to reduce food waste, such as offering smaller portion sizes or using ingredients efficiently.
  • Optimise Bin Sizes and Collections: Choose the right bin sizes and collection frequencies to avoid unnecessary bin rentals or collections.
  • Invest in Recycling: The more you recycle, the less waste goes into your general waste bin, reducing disposal costs. Encourage customers to recycle by providing clear bin signage.
  • Negotiate Contracts: When your contract is up for renewal, negotiate with your waste collection company for better rates or additional services.

Takeaway Packaging Waste Disposal & Recycling

Takeaway packaging on a counter

The convenience of takeaway food often comes with disposable packaging.

While this packaging keeps your food safe, it’s crucial to dispose of it correctly to reduce environmental impact.

Different materials require different disposal methods, so understanding what your container is made from is key.

Let’s break down the most common takeaway packaging materials and explain how to dispose of them responsibly:

1. Paper & Cardboard

This is a common choice for containers, pizza boxes, and trays. Generally, clean paper packaging can go in your recycling bin.

However, heavily soiled items with leftover food or grease may not be accepted by local recycling programs.

Top Tip: If the bottom of your pizza box is greasy, simply tear it off and recycle the rest!

2. Foam (Polystyrene)

This lightweight material is popular for hot food containers.

Unfortunately, polystyrene is rarely recycled due to processing difficulties.

Additionally, heating food in polystyrene can release harmful chemicals.

The Better Choice: Look for restaurants that offer plant-based alternatives like bagasse paper or mycelium for a more sustainable option.

Bagasse paper is made from sugarcane pulp, a renewable resource, while mycelium is a type of fungus grown into a sturdy, compostable material.

3. Hard Plastic

These containers can be clamshell containers with lids or sturdy tubs for liquids.

Clean and food-free hard plastic containers can often be recycled, but check with your local council for specific guidelines on accepted materials and sorting instructions.

Think Reuse! Depending on the container’s condition and size, you might even be able to reuse it for storage or organising at home.

Leftover containers can hold leftovers, craft supplies, or even become makeshift planters for small herbs!

4. Soft Plastic

Grocery bags used to carry takeaway containers are typically not recyclable in curbside bins.

Check with local stores for any plastic bag take-back programs they might have in place.

The Greener Option: Look for restaurants that offer paper carrier bags instead. Ideally, these paper bags will be made from recycled materials, further reducing their environmental impact.

5. Paper Carrier Bags

These are a more eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags. Look for restaurants using paper bags made from recycled materials to support sustainable practices.

Bonus Tip: If you forget to bring your own reusable bag, opt for a paper carrier bag over plastic whenever possible.

Paper bags break down much faster than plastic, and some paper bags are even compostable in industrial facilities.

Read more about recyclable packaging in our dedicated guide!

Plant-Based Packaging

Plant based takeaway packaging

The growing concern about plastic waste has led to a surge in plant-based packaging options.

These alternatives are made from renewable resources like plant starches or cellulose and offer a more sustainable solution.

  • Benefits: Plant-based packaging is typically biodegradable and compostable under the right conditions. This means it breaks down naturally over time, reducing landfill waste.
  • Disposal: Minimally dirty plant-based containers can often go in your home compost bin. However, heavily soiled items with food scraps may require industrial composting facilities to break down effectively.

By understanding takeaway packaging and making informed choices, you can be a responsible consumer and contribute to a healthier planet.

Look for restaurants that prioritise sustainable practices, and dispose of your takeaway packaging correctly based on the material type. Remember, small changes can make a big difference!


By implementing these practices, your takeaway business can streamline waste disposal, minimise environmental impact, and maintain a hygienic working environment.

Additionally, you can explore partnering with waste reduction organisations for guidance on further optimising your waste management practices.

Remember, a responsible waste disposal system not only benefits the environment but can also enhance your takeaway’s reputation for sustainability.

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