Food Waste and Landfill : How Can We Prevent Waste?

Food Loss

What is Food Waste?

Have you ever thrown away your favorite meals because they have been sitting in your fridge for too long? Have you regretted buying bulks of food you and your family could not finish and ended up in the bins? The RTS Food waste in America in 2020 states that 40% of the US food supply, about 11 billion USD of food which is $1600 worth of produce per family is wasted.

Food waste is different from food loss; food loss is where food that has not been in the hands of the consumer is being wasted. On the other hand, food waste is food that has been bought by consumers that is usually thrown away usually due to excessive buying, going past expiry dates, misunderstanding of labels, and excessive cooking.

While there is food being wasted daily, 1 out of 8 people in America do not have enough food to eat. To add on, more people lack food to eat especially with the COVID-19 situation, when there is decreasing rates of employment and financial instability.

So, where does all our food waste go?

Food waste and Landfill

food waste and landfill
In the United States, it is estimated 35.3 million tons of food went to landfills in 2018 and 24.1% of the landfills are food waste. That is equivalent to 30-40% of the food supply and ⅓ of food produced is being wasted. This added up to approximately 1.3 billion tons and $400 billion USD worth of food in 2021.

Landfills are a system of waste management, where an empty low lying land is filled with waste and is sometimes covered by sand to create flat land. These landfills are usually managed, to ensure their safety for the surrounding environment but their long term effects can be dangerous to the Earth and humans. Food that is being left in the landfill produces methane, which causes harm for our environment as greenhouse gas. Methane (CH4) can hold 25 times more heat than carbon dioxide (CO2) which contributes to global warming. This happens because food waste in landfills usually does not decompose like they do when we compost them naturally or with a composer. To compose properly, the materials need oxygen to produce less methane and more carbon dioxide. Landfills do not allow oxygen to enter the process as sand or more waste blocks all air flow. This means that there is not enough oxygen for composting to occur, as result, producing more methane than the normal composting process. Food waste in landfills can be more harmful to the environment as it produces more Methane than composting at home, which can generate a hotter atmosphere, which can lead to climate change and global warming.

Want to know more about Food Waste and its relationship with Climate Change? Read Food Waste and Climate Change, How They Influence Each Other article to learn more!

Ways to Prevent Food Waste ending up in Landfills

Food waste in landfills
Food waste not only is wasteful, but food waste in landfill can exemplify the negative impact of food waste. So how can we individually ensure reduction of food waste?

Plan your Grocery List

Prepare ahead and know what is inside your fridge. Make a list of things you will be needing for the week or days to cook, and the amount of each item you will be needing. While it may be cheaper to buy in bulks, be extra careful to ensure you are able to consume the item within a given time frame. Instead, buy smaller quantities of things you will definitely be using for the week to reduce food waste weekly

Eat before you go shopping

People tend to buy more when they are hungry during shopping as their hunger desires create temptations to buy more than needed to satisfy their hunger.

Eliminate Food Waste: Make Food with What You Have

Check your fridge and freeze every week to ensure nothing is left behind. Create one day where there is no menu for the meal but to use what is available in the kitchen instead of getting more Make a zero waste menu, challenge new recipes, and add, subtract and replace ingredients with the leftovers from the week. Start from what do I have and not what should I have?

If you are interested in switching up your leftovers, here are other ways you can upcycle your food to make them into new dishes and meals! Read Upcycled Food: The Food Trend of 2021 to find out more!

Ways to Handle Food Waste

If you come to encounter with food waste or likely food waste, here are some tips you can follow to ensure your food waste do not contribute to landfill, leading to climate change.

Reduce Food Waste By Learning about in Food Product Date

women checking expiry date
There are different Food Product Dates on food we buy in stores and markets. The common ones we see are “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates. Here’s a guide by Food Safety and Inspection that you can follow to understand each of these labels.

  • “A “Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safe date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
  • A “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.

Prepare and Store Single Serve

Once bought, try to preserve them by freezing, cutting, cooking before storing them in the fridge. Prepare them single serving to reduce the time cooking and actually use the products. You could also cook the items you bought into stocks, soups, dishes, smoothies to make them into easy access meals.

Compose at Home Not Landfill

To ensure that foodways do not go to landfills and produce methane that will provide more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere you can compose your food waste in your own garden or in your kitchen.

Materials Needed to Compost at Home

composting at home
If you are interested in composting at home, here is a guideline you can follow.To compose at home, there are some things you need to ensure the composting process can occur. Below is a list of materials needed to compost at home.

  1. Browns – dead leaves, branches, and twigs
  2. Greens – grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds
  3. Water – to damp and create moisture for the compost materials

If you are composing indoors, invest in a good indoor compost bin that can help you compose your materials in the house without a garden. You can use the soil as a houseplant soil or simply leave them to compose more materials in the future. If you are planning to compose outdoors make sure to check what materials can be and cannot be composed. Some food waste or materials should not be composed as it can harm your plants or the garden’s environment.

List of things that can be composed

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nut shells
  • Shredded newspaper
  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Yard trimmings
  • Grass clippings
  • Houseplants
  • Hay and straw
  • Leaves
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • 100% Cotton and Wool Rags
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes

Indoor or outdoor, composting is an environmentally friendlier choice than trashing your food waste in landfills. If you want to know more about how you can reduce your food waste? Try this article, 4 Wonderful Food Waste Hacks You Should Try for more information!

Start Small for Bigger Changes

nature food land
Understanding where our leftover food goes not only helps us to be more conscious but can prevent future environmental impacts such as landfills that contribute to global warming. Buying less, using what you have and composting are simple ways we can ensure that our consumption does not leave a negative environmental footprint. Some things are harder to do than others. Take small steps in achieving your goals and work your way up.

If you are interested in knowing more about Food Waste and Its effects, check out this article, The Effects of Food Waste Will Destroy Our Planet.

Author: Thiri Zaw Yazawa
Member of Ethical Choice
Started my ethical journey with knowing the truth about pet shops and cafes. Enthusiastic to find interesting ethical products and ideas around the world. Always challenging myself to start small for bigger changes every day because there is no planet B.