Waste from canteens, disposing of food waste

Canteen wastes come from a wide variety of different businesses including:

  • restaurants and cafés
  • canteens
  • self-catering kitchens
  • mobile caterers
  • outside caterers supplying buffets.

Canteen waste includes:

  • waste from food preparation
  • left-over food
  • food packaging materials
  • disposable cutlery, plates and napkins
  • waste electrical and electronic equipment such as cash registers and microwaves
  • waste water.

“Catering waste” means all waste food including used cooking oils originating in restaurants, catering facilities and kitchens, including central kitchens and household kitchens.

What you must do

Duty of care

You must comply with your duty of care responsibilities. Only transfer your waste to a person or business authorised to deal with it, otherwise you could be held responsible. You must provide a written description with the waste and you must also keep records of all waste that you transfer or receive for at least two years.

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

Duties for food businesses in Scotland,

food businesses that produce more than 5Kg of food waste per week must segregate their food waste. There are special arrangements for businesses in rural areas.

Duties for food businesses in Northern Ireland

If you are a food business and produce more than 5kg of food waste per week (roughly one kitchen caddy full) you will be required to separate that food waste from the rest of your waste for separate collection.

Waste water

The waste water your business creates might be classed as liquid waste (trade effluent), you must check with your water company to see if you require a permit.

Waste cooking oil

You must not dispose of used cooking oil with the rest of your canteen waste.

If you produce waste cooking oil, you must:

  • store it properly using oil containers that are strong enough and that are unlikely to burst or leak during ordinary use
  • store containers within a secondary containment system (SCS), such as a drip tray, bund, or any other suitable system, which will contain any oil that escapes from its container
  • ensure that only an authorised waste carrier collects your waste and takes it to an authorised site for recovery or disposal.

Oil storage

Recycling and disposal facilities

Find your nearest recycling and disposal services using the NetRegs Waste Directory.

Find your nearest waste site

Disposing of catering waste and waste food of animal origin

If your catering waste includes animal by-products, you must only send it for disposal at authorised premises including:

  • approved landfill sites
  • approved composting plants
  • approved biogas plants
  • incineration plants
  • approved rendering plants.

You may be required to segregate your catering waste to exclude meat if you send it to an approved biogas or composting plant.

If you produce catering waste from international transport ie from planes or ships you must dispose of it by incineration, rendering or burial in a licensed landfill site.

It is your responsibility to ensure the correct disposal of your canteen waste. It must not contaminate the environment and must never be fed to livestock.

There are specific rules that apply to animal by-products, which cover all animal, fish and shellfish waste.

Animal by-products

Animal by-product disposal facilities

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

If you dispose of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), such as microwaves, kettles and vending machines, you must comply with the WEEE regulations.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

Good practice

Disposing of waste oil

You should not pour waste cooking oil and fats down drains or sewers. This can lead to:

  • use of highly polluting chemicals for unblocking drains
  • blockages leading to flooding of drainage systems, which might be a nuisance to your neighbours
  • pollution of watercourses, for which you can be prosecuted and fined.

Noise, odour and other nuisances

You can install fat traps or oil interceptors in your drainage system which will reduce the chances of blockage.

Water UK: Disposal of fats, oils, grease and food waste – Best management practice for catering outlets

Waste minimisation

You can reduce, reuse or recycle a large proportion of waste created in canteens:

  • when possible use reusable cutlery, plates and cups
  • buy items in bulk to reduce the amount and cost of packaging
  • install grease traps or interceptors into sinks to reduce the amount of cooking oil discharged with water
  • use salt, pepper and sugar dispensers instead of individual packages
  • provide the same number of recycling bins to waste bins. This will make recycling easier
  • when possible choose glass instead of plastic, as you can recycle it more easily.

Reduce, reuse and recycle your business waste


You can compost food waste and it is a good way to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

If you compost animal by-products you must have an authorisation from:

  • your local Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO) in Scotland
  • the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARDNI) in Northern Ireland.

Animal by-products

If you are unsure of compost options and which type of composting will best suit your business, check out the NetRegs compost page.


Waste water

The water industry opposes the use of food waste macerators because of the potential for blockages. In Scotland the use of macerators to dispose of food waste in the sewer system has been banned from 1 January 2016, except for domestic premises and food producers in rural areas.

Further information

SEE ALSO: Duty of Care

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