Don’t bite off more than you can chew
I have been an avid recycler for many years, but I want to take my efforts to the next level by reducing my food waste, too. Do you have any recommendation on how to do this? – Nikki, Breckenridge
Thank you for your question this week Nikki. There is always room for improvement when it comes to waste reduction, and reducing our food waste is one action that comes with many benefits.
According to the nonprofit organization Feeding America, the U.S. alone throws away 72 billion pounds of food each year, wasting 21 percent of the fresh water that was used to produce that food. While reducing food waste within national and global food economies is a challenging risk, there are opportunities to begin combating the issue. Waste360, a solid waste publication, identifies five key trends shaping how the recycling and waste industries are handling food waste: Organics collection, anaerobic digestion facilitates, composting, food donations and technology. The waste industry, haulers, cities and regions across the globe all are starting to recognize the benefits of diverting food waste from the landfill, including reduced emissions, increased landfill space and using organics as a soil amendment. As a result, many communities are setting organic collection and diversion goals.
Organics collection services are an increasingly common and viable food waste reduction option as cities are rolling out residential and business curbside collection services for food waste. For example, Montreal, Canada, has set a goal to provide all houses and small apartment buildings with curbside organics collection services by 2019. Another great example of food scrap and organic collection opportunities is creating renewable energy through anaerobic digestion facilities. These facilities can catch the gas released from processing organic matter and convert it into a biogas to be used as an energy source. For instance, the Switzerland-based company, Hitachi Zosen Inova, is launching its first AD plant in the U.S. which will be able to process over 33,000 tons per year of comingled food and green waste to create electricity.
While a few of the waste reduction processes mentioned above require policy action, individual households are still an important component to minimizing food waste. Although Summit County doesn’t currently have any formal food waste reduction goals, here are some actions you can personally take to keep food out of the landfill.
Composting is nature’s process of recycling organic matter into a nutrient-rich soil. So instead of food ending up in the landfill where it creates methane, (a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2, but shorter-lived), this process feeds nutrients back into the earth. The High Country Conservation Center operates a Food Scrap Recycling program that allows participants to collect their food scraps at home and bring them to designated locations where they are picked up and hauled to the High Country Compost facility at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park. To join the program, visit HighCountryConservation.org.
Food donation is one of the best ways to help minimize food waste. We are fortunate to live in a community where organizations and businesses work together to help make this happen. Through partnerships between HC3, Summit County Women, Infants & Children, and the Family Intercultural Resource Center, the Grow to Share food donation program helped over 350 families receive fresh, locally grown produce from community and home gardens in 2016. If you have excess food in your home that you know you are not going to use, contact FIRC directly to coordinate donations or call 970-668-5703.
HC3 offers zero-waste event services and supplies to those looking to collect compost and recycling at their events. Collecting food scraps at events is a great way to also provide an outlet to educate your guests. A great example of a Zero Waste Event is the Colorado BBQ Challenge. Through the efforts of dedicated volunteers and HC3 staff, 3.10 tons of compostable materials were diverted from the landfill! To learn more, call 970-668-5703.
The grocery store … the Summit County local’s biggest fear. Not many of us enjoy going grocery shopping, and when we do go, we are faced with a copious amount of consumer decisions. This tends to lead to over-consumption and purchasing too many products in too short of a time. Buying only what you’ll use is essential to reducing food waste. We also need to be sure that what we do buy is properly stored to increase food longevity. IValueFood.com is a great resource for smart shopping and storage and has a variety of free printable guides for easy access.
While food waste and access continue to be a global problem, we can all work together locally to help keep our landfills open, mouths fed, and our soil rich. Not to mention, reducing food waste can create a full-circle system for agriculture, aids in water conservation and conserves energy.
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.