Food waste is a topic that is relevant to every person on our planet. From the lost profits of people growing the food, to people who redirect food so those who need it can enjoy it, food is a universal commodity that demands more of our attention to decrease waste and support our environment. How does so much food get wasted anyway?
It starts at the manufacturing level of food processing where improper storage, handling, and packing techniques can all lead to commodity loss. From there, more loss is seen at the retail and consumer level where food gets thrown away that is technically still fit for consumption but it may show signs of imperfection, so it gets pulled from a shelf and discarded. In addition, the average American household throws away 25% of the food they buy, which equates to almost $2300 per year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 68% of wasted food ends up in the landfill where it negatively impacts our atmosphere with green house gas emissions and global climate change. It is thought that consumers may lack awareness of and undervalue the food they have on hand. We may see less waste if more value is placed on the food we purchase.
Another area of waste is due to lack of understanding date labels on food items. There are differences between “sell by”, “use by”, and “best by” and these often are ignored. Many foods can last longer than we might think and it is important that we pay attention to the labels printed. Many non-perishable items can be donated to local food banks if they are going out of date soon and won’t be used in your household. In addition, food rescue programs will take perishable goods as donations and redirect the food to people who need it in the same day. There are many ways that we can reduce the waste we see; it’s simply a matter of knowing and utilizing our resources.
Recycling food through composting is a wonderful way to use spoiling food that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Compost is made through combining green matter (food scraps), with brown matter (paper products like newspaper and paper bags). When dampened with water, the green and brown matters decompose and turn into organic soil that can be used in potting and planting. This rich soil contains live microorganisms and minerals, which eliminates the need for added chemical fertilizer. It is common for compost worms to be used in these operations as they help to break down material and add vital nutrients through digestion. Although our food scraps and yard waste make up about 30% of our waste, these materials can be composted and put back into our ground system rather than sitting in a landfill.
Through taking small actions around our own homes and being proactive about the products we have in our kitchens, we can help to reduce food waste in our country, feed others with food we may not end up using, and lessen the amount of product that ends up in the landfill. In turn, this can have a great impact on our environment and our landfills for the future.