MANY of us have woken early in the morning and been dimly aware of the sounds of the bin men outside collecting our week's worth of waste.

But how many of us can say we've ever taken the time to say hello to our friendly local trash team or find out what they do?

That is exactly what Oxford city councillor John Tanner did last week.

As council board member for a 'clean, green Oxford', Mr Tanner has long championed recycling, reusing and reducing waste, but this month he decided he wanted to find out first hand what it was like working on the coalface of a 'clean, green Oxford'.

Specifically, he was on a quest to find out why the city is still not recycling as much food waste as it could.

The city of dreaming spires has long been good at encouraging residents to recycle, and last year celebrated its best-ever recycling rates of 46.9 per cent.

However, it still has a way to go to match its next door neighbour South Oxfordshire, which was last year named the best district in the country at recycling for a third year in a row, with a whopping 66.6 per cent of all waste turned into something new, from plastic cups to electricity.

In particular, Oxford has long struggled to get more residents to recycle food waste, with many still chucking it in their regular bins.

Food dumped in rubbish bins costs the city council significantly more to process than if it is put it in the proper food caddy for recycling.

But still on average in Oxford, as much as 30 per cent of waste found in green rubbish bins is made up of food, wasting taxpayer money to deal with.

On top of that cost, the average household throws away £600 worth of food every year.

The food that does go into caddies in Oxford, meanwhile, powers homes and businesses across the city and even gets turned into new food for us to eat.

That waste, as Mr Tanner learnt on Tuesday morning, is taken to an anaerobic digestion plant near Cassington, where it is used to generate enough electricity to power more than 4,000 homes, with the leftovers turned into fertiliser spread on local farmland and used to grow crops.

As the city council says: "Everyone in Oxford can recycle food and as it's collected every week, this helps reduce smells in your green bin."

Following his morning out, Mr Tanner said he was more keen than ever to persuade city residents to turn their used tea bags into electricity.

He said: "Collecting and recycling food waste is the fastest-growing part of the refuse service provided by Oxford City Council.

"Putting your food waste into your food waste caddy each week is hugely important.

"The food waste is used to create electricity and fertilizer and will push Oxford’s rate of recycling above 50 per cent.

"I hope everyone –unless they compost their own food waste at home – will stop chucking old food in their green bin and put in it their food waste caddy instead.

"Residents can use newspaper, compostable bags, plastic bags or nothing at all to line their food waste caddy.

"Recycling food waste is good for the environment, saves taxpayers’ money and is easy to do."

Find out more about the recycling at