THE city’s first doorstep food waste recycling service starts next month — although the man in charge says we should all have been doing it at least three years ago.

The first phase of a massive push to give every home in the city plastic bins to throw away kitchen waste and food scraps begins on Monday, December 7.

The scheme will be voluntary, but homeowners will be expected to opt out, not opt in, and bins will be collected weekly.

Homes in large swathes of North Oxford, Blackbird Leys, Rose Hill, Risinghurst, Botley Road and the city centre – the first areas of the city included in the scheme – will be sent letters in the coming weeks explaining how it works.

The rest of the city will be signed up next year.

The £100,000 scheme starts almost exactly three years after wheelie bins first hit Oxford’s streets in a controversial project dubbed Oxford’s “recycling revolution”.

City councillor John Tanner, executive member for a cleaner, greener city, said a food waste collection should have come first.

Mr Tanner said: “Everybody got it wrong in that we recycled what was easiest to recycle, not was the most important to recycle.

“This is the next step, but with the benefit of hindsight I think it should have come first.

“The most important thing to recycle is food waste because it is food waste that produces methane which, if put in landfill, is more damaging than carbon dioxide.

“We should have been collecting food waste rather than cardboard – so this scheme is absolutely key, not only will it push up our rate of recycling but it will stop damage to the climate. Nobody is going to be forced to recycle food waste, but I hope people will.”

Each home will be given two bins – a small plastic caddy for the kitchen which, when full, is emptied into a larger receptacle fitted with a rat-proof lock, for collection by the kerbside. The waste will be taken to a processing plant in Berkshire and broken down into bio-gas and fertiliser.

When Oxfordshire County Council’s new waste recycling plant is built in Cassington, west Oxfordshire next year, the food waste will be taken there.

Mr Tanner said: “People are recycling well – 37 per cent of what we throw away gets recycled already – but I want to do at least as well as south Oxfordshire and they are on 70 per cent. With all this talk of climate change the one practical thing we can all do is support this food waste collection.

“People know the city council is very strapped for cash and it has been a struggle to get this scheme up-and-running.”

South Oxfordshire is the only authority to collect food waste in the county, although Cherwell is about to introduce a scheme and Vale council is looking to launch a service next year.

Mother-of-three Gill Jaggers, 50, said: “The weekly food waste collection service is a good idea — as long as the waste is picked up weekly, then that’s fine, because we have had problems with rats around here.

“Being a large family there is a lot of waste that is generated.

“I am all in favour of this scheme, anything that helps to increase the recycling rate is a good thing and this is something that we will all be participating in.”

Annie Skinner, of pressure group Collect Refuse in Oxford Weekly (Crow), said: “There are problems with the way waste is collected and managed at the moment – and this complicates the issue further because we already have lots of containers and boxes. I’m pleased this is going to be weekly rather than fortnightly. I hope it works, but it’s not just food waste that needs to be collected weekly.”

Former Blackbird Leys parish councillor and anti-litter campaigner Brian Lester added: “The council hasn’t got the main recycling scheme sorted out yet – they should do that before introducing another service.”

City councillor and Liberal Democrat opposition group leader David Rundle said: “What we need is a proper, uncomplicated pure-and-simple weekly food waste collection service, not ill-thought out plans.”

Every home will be given a seven-litre caddy, which comes with a compostable liner, to be kept in the kitchen.

Fruit and vegetables, meat and fish — including bones — peelings, eggshells, cake, cheese, tea bags, rice, pasta and cereal can be safely put into the caddy.

When the caddy is full the liner can be tied and placed into a larger 23-litre receptacle, which is kept outside.

Homeowners will have to buy extra liners themselves.

Nappies, garden waste, liquids, oils or fat and packaging cannot be placed in the caddy, which should be left ready for collection by 7am on the appropriate day each week.