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Changes to Food Waste and Brown Bin Information (September 2019)

Changes to the food and garden waste collection service will be introduced from 30 September 2019

From 30 September, customer should recycle all food in their brown bins, along with garden waste. The food waste caddy collection will no longer operate.

For customers, there are a number of benefits:

  • a more frequent brown bin collection service (every fortnight instead of the current four weekly collection)
  • fewer bins to store/manage
  • The new service aims to increase food recycling in West Lothian

Customers should not dispose of food in brown bins until 30 September to avoid contamination.

Customers are advised to leave their empty food waste caddies out following their last food caddy collection date (between 23 September and 30 September) and the council will collect them. Alternatively customers can keep them if they can find a use for them or take them to a recycling centre.

Say no to plastic

Plastic bags should never be put into brown bins as they can't be recycled and contaminate the food and garden waste. Food should be loose, or put in biodegradable bags or wrapped in newspaper when recycled in brown bins.

New calendars

A new bin calendar is being delivered to all households throughout September to provide collection dates for 30 September onwards.

How will the service change - what you need to know

What can go into your brown bin from 30 September 2019?

From this date you will be able to combine garden and food waste in your brown bin. That includes:

  • All solid food including
    • tea bags,
    • coffee grounds,
    • egg shells,
    • cheese,
    • fruit,
    • vegetables and peelings,
    • meat,
    • fish,
    • bones 
    • plate left overs.

Please do not put liquids such as sauces, soup, yoghurt, milk or oil into your brown bins, only solid food waste.

  • You can still put your usual garden waste into the brown, such as
    • grass and hedge cuttings,
    • flowers,
    • small branches and
    • weeds,

Please try to remove any soil before putting them in your brown bin.  

You can still wrap food in newspaper or biodegradable bags but NOT plastic bags.

Why are we making these changes?

The Council has a new contract with Levenseat Ltd meaning that we're changing the way in which we process our food and brown bin waste.  It will now be treated in a vertical composting unit which allows food and garden waste to be treated together, before being matured in the open air.

What are the benefits of comingled food and garden waste?

The new process will make it easier for residents to recycle their food waste. This will hopefully increase the total amount of waste that is recycled overall.

There will be fewer bins for residents to store and manage.

There will be an increase in brown bin collections throughout the year, collections will now take place every two weeks during the whole year.

What should you do with your food caddy?

Large outdoor caddies:

Householders will no longer need their outdoor caddies but are welcome to keep them to use elsewhere. If you don't want it anymore, please leave your empty caddy by the kerbside after 30 September on your usual collection day and we will collect it. Alternatively, take it to your local Recycling Centre.

Small indoor caddies:

The small food waste caddies are mainly kept in the home and may still prove useful to store food waste in before putting it in your brown bin. If you don't want it anymore, please leave your empty caddy by the kerbside after 30 September on your usual collection day and we will collect it. Alternatively, take it to your local Recycling Centre.

Please see the West Lothian Council website to check the Recycling Centre Opening Times.

Will food waste being left for two weeks not smell and cause problems?

Up until 2014/2015 we didn't have a separate food waste collection and so all food waste went in the grey bin which was uplifted fortnightly.  This was the practice for many years and the frequency is no different to the one being introduced.

Food waste can be placed in brown bins in biodegradable bags or wrapped in newspaper to prevent smells. Many other councils operate similar systems for food waste and have not reported any additional issues such as smells or vermin.

The council is applying adhesive patches to many older style brown bins to stop any liquids from leaking out of them. This will prevent any liquid generated from the food and garden waste escaping and leaking out the bottom of the brown bins.

Why can't we use plastic bags in brown bins?

West Lothian Council will no longer accept food waste placed in plastic bags when the new service commences on 30 September 2019. This is because plastic doesn't biodegrade like food and garden waste does. Also, the process for recycling co-mingled food and garden waste is different to processing just food waste as we can no longer de-package the food waste through a bag splitter. Plastic bags containing food waste will therefore lead to an increase in contamination of the end product.

The limits for the amounts of plastic allowed in compost has also reduced and is reducing further in the near future. Our contractor, Levenseat Ltd, who processes our waste has to meet the decreasing limits for plastics that are stated in the SEPA end-of-waste regulatory guidance shown below, therefore we need to ensure that we help to comply with these new targets .

SEPA Revised End-of-Waste Regulatory Position for Compost (and Digestate)

SEPA has revised their end-of-waste regulatory position for compost (and digestate). The revised statement (issued in January 2017 SEPA Guidance - Regulation of Outputs from Composting) lists a number of conditions that compost producers must comply with in order for the compost to cease being regulated as 'waste', including the requirement for compost to be certified to PAS100, the Scheme Rules, and additional quality standards. These additional standards introduce a phased-in approach to reducing the levels of plastic contained within compost:

  • From 1st December 2018: plastic limit 0.08% (66% of PAS100 before 1st December 18)
  • From 1st December 2019: plastic limit 0.06% (50% of current PAS100 before 1st December 18)

This aligns plastic contamination limits with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) standards. SEPA have also published new guidance on food waste management (SEPA Guidance - Food Waste Management in Scotland) which sets out obligations along the chain of food waste management.

I live in a flat and don't currently receive food or garden waste collections. Can I now recycle food and garden waste?

Where you are not currently offered a blue or brown bin service this will not change, you should continue with your usual collections as normal.

I need a replacement brown bin, how can I order one?

Replacement brown bins can be requested online through the Request a Bin online form.

Does West Lothian Council plan to start charging for brown bins?

We have no current plans to introduce charges for brown bins, although some other local authorities have introduced charging.

Are any of the other collections changing?

There are no changes to grey or blue bin collections. Local residents should receive a new calendar in September with their collections dates, or you can Check Bin Collection Dates online.

I have a grate in my brown bin. What will happen to the food that gets stuck in/under the grate?

The grates are fitted with hinges on one side so that when the bin is emptied the grate will open and any waste which has fallen through will still be emptied out. If any food waste is trapped in the grate itself, residents should try to dislodge this or leave it for the next collection where it will likely degrade and soften slightly, meaning it will fall out in the next collection.

Is this practice accepted by Zero Waste Scotland and SEPA?

Yes, these organisations accept that collecting food waste fortnightly is an acceptable practice.

Do other councils in Scotland collect food and garden waste together?

Yes, other councils in Scotland collect food waste in this way including Aberdeen City, East Renfrewshire, Fife, Glasgow City, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross.

How will my food and garden waste be recycled?

Your brown bin waste will now be treated in a container along with the food waste. It is firstly screened to remove any contamination before it is shredded. The shredded material is then put into the vertical composting unit where it heats up naturally to kill off any pathogens. The heat is created by micro-organisms in the waste which helps to break it down into compost. The temperature is monitored carefully to ensure that the material is safe for use. The compost is then left to mature in the open air in big piles called windrows and it is screened again before being sold on for use as compost. Levenseat produce PAS 100 compliant compost, which is the standard used to measure the quality of compost.

What will happen to my food caddy when it has been removed?

If you can't make use of your food caddy and would like it removed, please leave it out for collection after 30 September and the council will uplift it. You could also take it to your local recycling centre. Your unwanted food caddy will then be sent for recycling where the material can be made into other products like garden furniture, traffic cones or even new wheelie bins.

I have an old style brown bin with vents on the side. Can I put food waste in it after 30 September?

Yes, there is no issue with placing food waste in this style of bin.  These bins were originally purchased with vents to allow air circulation, however updated studies have shown that this is not necessary.

Council staff have been placing stickers over the vents in these bins when presented over the summer period to prevent any risk of leaks, and we will continue to place these stickers on the bins as they are emptied.

Any customer who would like stickers over the vents in their brown bin should email their address details to so we can arrange this at their next uplift.

Do you have more than two brown bins?

Following your scheduled brown bin collection in September, the council will only empty two brown bins per property. 

The council can only guarantee to empty two brown bins per property to ensure we can continue to service all of the properties in West Lothian. If householders present more than two brown bins for collection after 30 September, they will not be emptied. Brown bin collections will now be every fortnight due to the addition of food waste collection in brown bins, therefore this will be the equivalent of having four brown bins emptied every four weeks for those households that already have two brown bins.

The change will affect less than 2% of households in West Lothian. During September, households should present all their brown bins for collection as normal. The households with more than two brown bins will be lettered individually to ask if they wish to have their excess brown bin/s removed. Householders can request the uplift of excess brown bin/s by emailing: or phoning 01506 280000.

From 30 September, if you present more than two brown bins for collection on your scheduled collection date the council will remove the excess bin/s.  

What will happen to my extra brown bins when they have been removed?

Your extra brown bin(s) will either be washed out and reused in West Lothian as a replacement for any damaged bins or it will be sent for recycling. The material will then be made into other products like garden furniture, traffic cones or even new wheelie bins.