Have you ever stopped to think about the amount of food waste going to landfills each day? Estimates are that each year, people throw out as much as 1,000 pounds per person. Half of this waste takes place during consumption, such as taking a bigger portion than you’re able to eat. Here are some facts about food waste in landfills and what you can do to help stop food waste.
Individuals and Industries Generation Billions of Tons of Food Waste Each Year
At last estimates, the EPA believed as much as 335 billion pounds of food waste were generated by businesses and individuals from production to consumption. Almost 25% of it ended up in landfills. This is a problem as rotting food attracts vermin, increases methane gas production, and takes up valuable space in already crowded landfills.
It’s hard to visualize exactly what 335 billion pounds of food waste entails. Imagine covering the states of California and New York in rotting food and you have a good idea.
Food Waste Could Feed More Than 150 Million People
Dairy, eggs, and vegetables are the food items that end up in the trash most often. It’s estimated that around 150 million people would benefit from this food waste. People often save money by purchasing in bulk, but the items end up spoiling before they’re used.
To prevent this type of food waste, you can freeze the excess and store it safely in your freezer until it’s needed. Separate egg whites and yolks and freeze them in ice cube trays or mix them and freeze them the same way. One ice cube tray section holds one egg typically unless you have a larger ice cube tray and then it might hold two.
Handy tip: Silicone ice cube trays are the easiest to remove the frozen egg from, otherwise spray the ice cube tray with cooking oil spray first.
One Pound of Food Waste Generates Almost Four Pounds of Methane
It’s estimated that just one pound of food waste generates 3.8 pounds of methane. This methane could be recovered and used to heat buildings. This is one of the biggest reasons to turn to composting your produce and saving meat, bread, and dairy food compost for facilities that can use it for energy.
Home Composting Saves Space
Some food waste occurs during processing and manufacturing. Grow as much of your own produce to prevent this. When you’re growing your fruits and vegetables, you avoid loss of produce during long shipping times. You don’t need a lot of space for growing, as container gardening and raised beds are just as effective as a large in-ground garden bed.
Compost your fruit and vegetable scraps at home and create nutrient-rich soil for your gardens. There are a few ways to get started, and they don’t require too much work. Start by purchasing a compost bucket or plastic bucket with a screw-on lid. When preparing meals and snacks, move trimmings, pits, and peels to the compost bucket. Here are things you can add to your compost bucket:
- Bleach-free paper products
- Coffee grounds
- Fruit and vegetable peels
- Spent grains from homebrewing
- Tea leaves
- Vegetable ends, leaves, and stalks (chop up big items to speed up decomposition)
You’ll add that to your compost bin or pile every few days. From time to time, use a pitchfork or shovel to aerate the compost. This helps it break down quickly. If you have the money and space, a barrel-style composter that you spin around is ideal for creating compost without much work.
As the compost breaks down and no longer contains recognizable pieces of vegetables or fruit, mix it into your garden soil. If you have too much, you can move it to a pile somewhere in your yard until it’s needed.
Even if you don’t compost your foods, you can send your food scraps to a participating facility. If everyone did this, as much as 14 billion pounds of compost used as fertilizer would be generated.
Handy Tip: Do you have potatoes that have started to sprout? Cut them into sections and plant them in your garden. Those potato sections will decompose in the soil and feed the growing sprouts. By fall, you’ll have new potatoes.
Worms Consume Up to 35% of Their Body Weight in Food Scraps Each Day
Some people have discovered the benefits of worm gardening or vermiculture. Purchase a worm garden set up or create your own using buckets or old coolers. Fill one section with shredded newspaper, white paper, cardboard, leaves, coconut coir, and compost. You want it to be good and loose.
Purchase red wiggler worms and let them set up a home in the tray you’ve established. They will eat fruit and vegetable scraps, cardboard, unbleached napkins and paper towels, coffee grounds, etc., and turn them into worm castings that are fantastic additions to garden soil.
The benefit of a worm farm is that it’s kept indoors in a basement, garage, or home. If you’re in an area where outdoor compost bins are not allowed due to bears and other wild animals, vermicomposting allows you to keep food scraps out of the trash. Worms eat up to 35% of their body weight each day, so they can process a lot of food scraps for you.
Handy Tip: Worms also multiply quickly. You can sell your extra worms and make some money in the process. Current prices are around $50 per 1,000 worms. Plus, you have all the vermicompost you need to grow your fruits and vegetables, which saves money at the store.
Use Leftovers in Other Dishes
Everyone ends up with leftovers from time to time, but make sure you’re using them. That leftover chicken you roasted is all you need to make your own homemade bone broth or chicken stock. Freeze the stock until needed.
You have leftover mashed potatoes. Turn them into potato and leek soup or make patties and have potato pancakes for breakfast. Leftover vegetables can go into soups and stews. Freeze what you won’t use up in time.
Generally, cooked meats can be stored in a refrigerator for around three days, but seafood needs to be used within two days. If you won’t use them within those time frames, put them in the freezer. Cooked vegetables can be refrigerated for up to five days if they’re in an airtight container.
Handy Tip: If you have leftover mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes, you already have most of the components for a shepherd’s pie. Consider pairings like this when planning a weekly menu. It saves time and cuts down on food waste.
How Do You Find Places That Take Organic Waste?
Do you need help finding where to bring your organic waste, including food scraps, for recycling? Visit Recycle Nation and use the recycling tool to find your local organic waste recycler. Most solid waste districts have programs set up, and if there isn’t one close to you, ask area farmers as many take food scraps for animal feed.