Food Waste: The Final Frontier

According to the EPA, in 2010, about 35 million tons of food waste was generated in the US. Of that, almost 34 million tons (97%) was thrown away into landfills or incinerators.

When excess or leftovers are disposed of in a landfill, they decompose and become a significant source of methane — an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Much of this “waste” is not waste at all, but actually safe, wholesome food that could potentially feed millions of Americans…or be safely composted and reclaimed as valuable soil enhancers.

Add to this another 20-30 millions of tons of wet/food-soiled paper and waxed corrugated cartons (that can NOT be recycled), and you can quickly see a huge opportunity for landfill diversion.

To educate municipal officials (and concerned citizens and businesses) about the large potential for landfill diversion of mixed organic wastes, the EPA has been sponsoring a series of webinars as part of its SMM (Sustainable Materials management) program that describe successful, large-scale food waste diversion programs.

The latest webinar  included detailed reports on three successful large-scale mixed organics composting programs:

  • University of Missouri-Kansas City’s experiences as their dining operations strive for zero waste
  • Ohio State University’s organics recycling across campus and in their stadium
  • Harvard University’s strategies for reducing, densifying, de-watering, and composting food scraps in an urban environment
To register for future webinars, visit the EPA’s SMM webpage.
Note:  compostable products have an important environmental role to play by replacing products that contaminate otherwise compostable organic materials.  But these items must be certified to biodegrade in a commercial composting facility. Products that are not certified can cause contamination in compost, which jeopardizes the economic viability of composting as a solid waste solution.