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DISPOSALLLIANCE

From Trash to Treasure - Composting

Non composted food waste takes up 22% of landfill space

Today, much effort goes into reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic waste, but what about food waste? You might be surprised at just how much food Americans waste every year. In fact, according to the EPA, food waste takes up 22 percent of all municipal solid waste (MSW) which is the most out of any category of waste!

Food Waste in America

Americans waste 80 billion tons of food every year. This amount equates to more than $161 billion! We waste approximately 30-40 percent of the food we get every year. These are staggering figures that most of the public is unaware of. But you might be surprised at the breakdown of the food waste in America and also around the world.

At the farm level, losses of food are typically around the 15-25 percent level. At the restaurant level, the losses are around 26 percent while supermarkets only waste 1 percent of their product or produce. This matches with data that shows that food waste increases as it moves further down the food chain in mid to high-income countries. But why exactly does this food waste even occur?

Most food is wasted due to spoilage. Fruits and vegetables are most susceptible to spoilage, which is why they are the most wasted food group. Restaurants have increased food waste due to customer demands. The heightened demands for quality and presentation have forced restaurants to waste more than they typically would. This trend could continually cause more food waste if not contained. Households are also a big cause of food waste. It is said that each person in America wastes about 219 pounds of food every year. This is due to spoilage and over preparation. But are Americans the worst when it comes to food waste?

Well, the answer is no. For the most part, industrialized countries all waste roughly the same amount of food. Food that is wasted changes from country to country. For instance, China wastes nearly one-tenth of the countries grain output. In developing countries, food waste begins closer to the beginning of the supply chain. This is due to financial, harvesting, and storing reasons. But regardless of the reason or country, there is no excuse for wasting one-third of the worlds food supply. While we may not be able to consume all of the world's food, we can do our part to make sure we make use of it by composting!

Composting Food Waste

Composting

The Process

Composting dates back thousands of years to the Akkadian Dynasty. As time has passed, composting has grown more and more popular due to environmental concerns. Today, there are even industrial composting facilities that compost collected green waste. But how does this process work and what are the benefits of compost?

Composting is simply the process of speeding up the natural decay of organic material by providing microorganisms with the ideal conditions to thrive. The process starts with waste. Most yard waste and food waste can be used to create compost. In order to make healthy and rich compost you need to have the right amount of nutrients, oxygen, moisture, and warm temperatures so that the microorganisms can grow.

The two main organisms are aerobes and anaerobes. Aerobes are the most important microorganism in the compost process. These organisms are able to consume the waste and excrete valuable nutrients that plants need such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The ability to breakdown waste into valuable compost is all on the shoulders of these microorganisms. But in order to get compost it starts with you and I making the decision to better the environment by composting our food waste.

What You Can and Cannot Composting

Proper compost consists of an even mixture of “green” and “brown” waste. Green waste includes items such as fruits and vegetables, coffee grounds, and grass clippings. These provide a large amount of nitrogen for the compost. Brown waste is more carbon-rich. These include items such as dead leaves, branches, and twigs. The proper ratio for rapid composting should be around a 25 to 1 carbon-to-nitrogen ratio.

What you can compost:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Saw dust
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Shredded cardboard

What you can't compost:

  • Certain types of twigs, branches, and leaves
  • Coal or ash
  • Diseased plant waste
  • Different dairy products as they may cause an order and attract different rodents or insects.

Composting Options

There are tons of composting options available for households of various sizes. You can find a wide range of bins that are scattered all across the internet. One very useful bin is the Bokashi Composter that is made by Bokashi Living. This company provides a very easy way to attain everything you need to start composting all in one place. Their starter kit includes a composter, bran, and a complete guide to get you started. The bran contains quality bacteria that will help to breakdown and compost your food waste. If you're looking to get a head start and bypass the confusion of getting started then this is a great option.

Composting Impacts More Than You Think

Composting Food Waste Infographic

"The above infographic comes from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (www.ilsr.org), a national nonprofit organization working to strengthen local economies, and redirect waste into local recycling, composting, and reuse industries. It is reprinted here with permission."

Final Thoughts

Composting makes more of a difference than we might realize. Food waste takes up the most space in our landfills. Just imagine the difference we would experience if we all decided to compost instead of simply dumping our scraps. We would see a big difference in many facets of life such as air quality and even in the economy. But it all begins with you and me. So go out there and get yourself a composting bin and begin your journey to help achieve our mission of zero waste!