Hundreds of cafes, restaurants and hotels across Scotland are to be forced to recycle their leftovers in a drive to cut food waste and eliminate tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.

Under a change to the law, which comes into force on New Year’s Day, any company or organisation that produces more than 5kg of food waste each week will have to separate leftovers and out-of-date items for them to be recycled - rather than sent to landfill.

The previous food waste limit stood at 50kg, but the latest reduction means more businesses across the country will now be affected by the law and could be hit with hefty fines.

Companies have been warned if they fail to comply with the new regulation the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency can impose an on-the-spot fine of £300, while repeat offenders stand to receive penalties of up to £10,000.

Grant Keenan, managing director at Scotland’s largest organic recycling company, Keenan Recycling, explained how the initiative would help to combat global warming.

“As well as saving companies money, the new regulations will also help to tackle climate change. When food breaks down, it releases a gas called methane, which has the potential to retain 21 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide,” he said.

“By reducing food waste, the Scottish Government aims to prevent the equivalent of 27 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere – that would have the same effect as taking 166,000 cars off our roads.

“Recycling food waste can also have a double environmental benefit – the leftovers that we collect from our customers in the Central Belt are fed into an anaerobic digester, inside which they are broken down by bacteria to produce biogas. That biogas can then be used to generate green electricity,” he added.

Richard Lochhead, the cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and the environment, said: “It will no longer be acceptable to put food waste in residual waste bins, so now is the time to think about the amount of food waste being produced and how it can be reduced – helping to save businesses money.

“Collecting food waste separately avoids food going into landfill where it emits harmful methane emissions; and separately collected food waste can be put to good use through processes such as composting or anaerobic digestion.

“I recently set out my intention to introduce a food waste reduction target Scotland, so there is no time like the present to start making changes.”