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Pros and Cons Of Reducing Food Waste

Fresh salad items to remind us there are no cons just pros to reducing food waste

The nicest thing that can happen to food is for it to reach our plates and be consumed. We save money and help to minimize greenhouse gas emissions by not throwing out food that could have been consumed. It almost seems silly to weigh the pros and cons of reducing food waste because of how much good can come from a little more effort and awareness.

NY facility preparing to use the food waste. Pros and cons of reducing food waste
NY uses food waste to create “bio-slurry” which is turned into methane and used for power.

The one-ton elephant in the room is food waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every year, 63.1 million tons of food are thrown away in the United States, and one-third of all food produced worldwide is squandered. Food, more than any other single commodity, reaches landfills and incinerators. Sadly, food waste accounts for 21.6 percent of all municipal solid trash discharged.

food waste stat accounting for 21% of municipal solid waste

Not every trash company has the ability to do more about food waste (or more specifically the issue of organic waste). It’s up to us as individuals to learn more about organics recycling. Whether you’re a restaurant or a hotel, a small business, or a large corporation or homeowner, there is always more to do about getting closer to living a zero-waste lifestyle.

Food waste presents a serious problem that has far-reaching implications. If not for the tragedy of not getting food to those who are in desperate need, but also for the environmental impact of wasteful lifestyles.

Pro: Composting is an effective and simple solution 

Food waste is unavoidable; eggshells, banana peels, and tea bags will never be served and therefore require proper disposal. One of the simplest solutions to mitigating food waste is composting organics in your garden or backyard. Composting at home is a fantastic method to keep this trash out of landfills, and our gardens will thank us for it. 

pros and cons of reducing food waste by composting

Compostable items vs. biodegradable items

Biodegradable garbage, often known as organic waste, is a form of natural trash produced by plants or animals. Biodegradable plastics, food waste, green trash, certain types of paper waste, manure, human waste, sewage, and abattoir waste are only a few of the many types. Not all types of waste can are good to use in your compost.

All compostable items are biodegradable but not all biodegradable items are compostable.

It’s important to note that not all things that are biodegradable will break down completely in your compost. Therefore you might be a little shocked at what you find in your bin if you don’t brush up on what’s compostable and what’s not. We’ll make it simple for you. Here’s a list!

What can be composted?

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Teabags
  • Nutshells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Cotton and wool
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes
compost organics to reduce food waste

What can NOT be composted

  • Black walnut tree leaves or twigs
    – Releases substances that might be harmful to plants
  • Coal or charcoal ash
    – Might contain substances harmful to plants
  • Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs*
    – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants
    – Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils*
    – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Meat or fish bones and scraps*
    – Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
  • Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)*
    – Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
  • Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides
    – Might kill beneficial composting organisms
    * Check with your local composting or recycling coordinator to see if these organics are accepted by your community curbside or drop-off composting program.

Pro: Composting reduces the size of landfills

Most organic goods appear to be harmless – after all, they are natural. However, dumping it in landfills causes severe environmental damage. When organic garbage is placed in a landfill, it undergoes anaerobic decomposition due to a lack of oxygen. Methane is produced, which is then released into the atmosphere. It defies sense to think that combining organic waste with a faulty disposal method could produce a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, yet it can.

Methane is much better at trapping heat in the atmosphere than C02. According to a 2019 report from the EPA, solid waste accounts for 15.1% of the methane gas that is being released into the earth’s atmosphere. That’s the equivalent of the pollution of 26 million passenger cars.

Food waste in 2019 was equal to the Co2 from 26 million cars

This measure directly compares to the global warming potential of pollutants. Food waste decaying in landfills accounts for a significant percentage of these emissions.

On a worldwide basis, food waste has enormous consequences. If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third greatest carbon emitter behind the United States and China, according to the World Resources Institute.

Are there alternative options for dealing with organic waste?

The ultimate objective is to keep organic waste from being “wasted” in the first place. There are several more applications for these materials.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a helpful Food Recovery Hierarchy that highlights some typical strategies to avoid food and organic waste. The hierarchy is made up of the following items, in order of priority, from first to last:

Food hierarchy table by the EPA
  1. Reduce the amount of extra food produced at the source.
  2. Donate surplus food to food banks, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters to help feed the poor.
  3. Food leftovers can be used to feed animals.
  4. Industrial applications include converting waste oils into fuel and sending food waste to anaerobic digestion for fuel and energy generation.
  5. Composting: Make a nutrient-dense soil amendment through composting.
  6. Landfills and incinerators are only used as a last option for waste disposal.

Depending on the type of organic waste you create and where you live, you can recycle it in one of three ways.

Why should food waste be recycled?

One of the three R’s that constitute a sustainable lifestyle is recycling (the other two are reusing and reducing). We need to encourage minor recycling practices at home to guarantee that we do our part to mitigate the consequences of climate change and global warming. As mentioned before, food waste accounts for 21% of total solid waste. If everyone were to make a diligent effort to recycle food waste in their homes we could reduce the size of landfills by more than a fifth. 

The power to reduce the carbon footprint is literally one conscious decision away. 

chart showing food waste increasing 289% since 1960s creating the need for reducing food waste at home and the workplace

Recycling our leftover meals and food waste is one of these simple behaviors that needs very little work or input. This has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, as well as save us money by replacing items like fertilizer and compost that would otherwise have to be purchased.

Even if food waste recycling does not immediately reduce food waste, it can at the very least atone for our poor behaviors and prevent vital nutrients from being lost forever.

Con: It takes a diligent effort

Since we are weighing the pros and cons of reducing food waste through composting we need to mention the downside. Making an effort to reduce the size of our landfills takes a vigilant effort. Not everyone wants to be bothered to make the effort when the problem doesn’t seem to affect their lives.

food waste and garbage mixed up adn piled in a wall of garbage at the landfill

If you can throw everything out without thinking about it for the next 100 years you won’t need to worry after that! The truth is it takes a consistent effort to separate your trash. It takes an effort to compost organic waste. It takes effort to be environmentally aware of our actions.

It takes effort to care enough to do something about it.

Final thoughts… 

The rising concern about global warming and resource conservation connected with food waste has motivated both public and private entities to adopt remedial steps to handle trash in an environmentally responsible manner during the last few decades. Use the techniques listed above to successfully recycle food waste, diverting organic matter from landfills and lowering GHG emissions as a result.

Hopefully, you can see that when comparing the pros and cons of reducing food waste, there’s really no contest. Everyone needs to take action and do their part.

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