How To Recycle Food Waste
You may already have a comprehensive plan for recycling plastic in all its varieties, making sure your paper gets shredded for packing or recycled, and seeing that glass and aluminum is set aside for their specific recycling units. But have you considered the amount of food waste that gets put in the garbage? Often, that leftover bit of chicken gets pushed to the back of the fridge and has an unfriendly odor by the time you find it again. Or maybe you bought five too many cans of green beans when they were on sale at half price. Whatever the reason, food gets dumped in the trash and taken to landfills.
If you equate this to being biodegradable, you may be in for a shock. Food will eventually break down that has been left in landfills, but when it does, it creates a methane gas that causes problems in the form of greenhouse gases, and can be harmful to the atmosphere. With this in mind, you should also consider that even food waste that will eventually break down takes up precious space in the landfill. The more food waste that goes unnecessarily into landfills, the less room there is for more enjoyable places to visit, and the more issues there will be with green house gasses.
So the next question that begs to be asked is this: what can be done with food waste so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill? The answer is actually quite simple. Food is organic, and it is perfectly biodegradable. It also naturally breaks down in compost. So the answer is to put it in compost piles, or set up places to put food scraps in. There are a few ways to do this. First, set out a dish that you can put inedible food scraps in to be buried later. Note, though, that steak bones, along with fish and poultry bones, should still be put in the trash. Once you have gathered enough food scraps, find a place in your yard – particularly a garden or compost pile if you have one, and dig a hole that is two or three feet deep. In the case of a three foot deep hole, you will be able to layer the scraps a couple of times. This may be especially important if you don’t live in an area where there is a lot of extra space in your yard.
Once you have placed the scraps in the hole, fill it up with dirt, and mark it with date. You may want to have a simple, decorative marker, and jot down in a notebook somewhere the marker and the date. The reason for this is that worms and microbes need time to break down the materials in the food scraps, so it will be about half a year before you want to dig there again. Once that year has passed, though, you have fresh soil that you can use as compost, or give away to friends, or even sell. This is a good way to naturally break down food waste, keep it out of landfills, and get good dirt for gardening in return. It might even save you money in the long run from having to buy commercialized compost.
If it turns out that you live in an apartment complex, or do not have sufficient yard space, there are still ways to compost your food scraps. Search online for directions to creating or buying worm bins, which you can store in your kitchen or office. You need a specific type of worm, and a number of them, along with a dark box and newspaper bedding. Often, some soil is added to ensure that the necessary bacteria can be accessed. Eventually, buried food scraps are turned into highly fertile soil. This is another good way to recycle food scraps and get relatively free compost – and a number of “pets” with a very useful purpose!
Depending on where you live, there are some cities that pick up food scraps off the side of the curb. Though it may take time to develop, it is a potentially useful way to have food waste recycled when living in a large, heavily populated city. Currently, San Francisco is one of the few cities that have tried this method. Food waste is taken to a commercial recycler, where the waste is turned into compost, rather than sitting in landfills and converting to methane gas.
Last of all, you may have food that is still perfectly edible that you won’t ever find the time to use. This could be leftover jars of green beans, cans of ravioli, or even boxes of macaroni. Depending on where you live, you may find food pantries or places that accept charitable donations, and you may be able to give the excess food you have there. Each place will vary on what they will accept, but it can be helpful nonetheless. If you have a business that has leftover food at the end of the day, such as a bakery, it can be a great help to give away what didn’t sell to places that need them.