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Question of the Week: What do you do with food waste?

2009 July 6

Instead of throwing it away, food waste can be composted and reused on lawns and gardens. Yet food waste remains single-largest component of the waste stream by weight in the U.S.

What do you do with food waste?

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81 Responses leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 8, 2009

    I think the initial question is not correct. Are we not talking about food scraps? To call it food waste leads folks, as you see above, that food is in fact being wasted, when usually we are referring to the portion of the food item, usually plant based, that is inedible, such as carrot tops, rhubarb leaves, corn husks, coffee grounds etc.

    I think the question should be reframed to help us all recognize the material not as waste, but as a resource. The question should be – how do we manage this resource in our lives and/or community.

  2. sharon permalink
    July 8, 2009

    True waste foods that can’t be used in meat loaf, soups, sandwiches, or other dishes is given to the dog. But, it is only my husband and me and he usually doesn’t leave much to go to waste!

  3. Chris S permalink
    July 9, 2009

    If only it were true that “wasted” food is limited to scraps from food prep and uneaten leftovers. The sad truth is that people can be extremely wasteful.
    Food processors have traditionally treated the by-products of canning and other food processes as solid and liquid waster material. Go into any school cafeteria and you will gag at the amount of uneaten or partially eaten food that ends up in the trash bins. The amount of food that is left behind in restaurants and fast food places is also staggering and this ends up in the trash dumpsters.
    In North America you can find the landfill by the flocks of seagulls or other scavenger birds circling overhead looking for a free meal. And that’s just before the fragant aroma of the place hits you right between the eyes.

  4. patpat permalink
    July 9, 2009

    I have no food waste. Everything is eaten, whats not eaten goes to the dog or the birds. I save hundreds on dog food.

  5. Sherry Ann permalink
    July 9, 2009

    Most goes in my compost heap behing our fence, meat goes to the dump. Usually don’t have any meat to throw out because we do leftovers in our home, and just serve them next day as something else.

  6. Julie permalink
    July 9, 2009

    We recycle all 1 & 2 plastics (wish we could do more but can’t find anyone to take the higher numbers), glass, and metal cans; all “green” food waste goes in our compost bin out back. We live in the city and as long as you keep a good mix of “browns” and “greens” in there, we never ever have any odor or animals come round. Meats and other odd food wastes that cannot be composted go in the trash, but we try not to eat too much meat that would have a lot of waste (like fatty chicken–we try to buy lean and organic). We only put out one bag of trash a week.

  7. Johnny R. permalink
    July 9, 2009

    Whatever methods of recycling are used, the growing population’s growing production of waste and garbage will overwhelm any community’s efforts. The beginning of effective recycling is family planning to peacefully reduce the population. Otherwise, the landfills will keep on growing and the oceans will turn to sewers.

  8. ChaseR permalink
    July 9, 2009

    What food waste.

  9. James Turner permalink
    July 10, 2009

    Where can you get a composter

  10. Chris S permalink
    July 10, 2009

    HomeDepot has one model – though it is only available seasonally. They are often available through larger garden centers that promote green gardening. But a quick search of the internet will give a large list to investigate.

    Contact the local Co-operative Extension or Master Gardener Program to see if there are any available for reduced cost.

    Or look for directions to make your own. I went to the local home depot & bought a few sections of low garden fence to form a small bin in my mom’s backyard – she’s in her 80’s- to throw her grass clippings,weeds, & kitchen scraps into. Each spring she takes it apart to use the compost in her garden and then reassembles it and starts afresh.

    it’s not rocket science… but it does take a degree of commitment.

  11. Chris S permalink
    July 10, 2009

    I suddenly occurred to me that we have overlooked another food “waste”.
    Lipids ( fasts & oils) do not compost well. However, the spent cooking oil from deep fat fryers can be converted to biodiesel fuel that works quite well in warm temperatures. A co-worker has been doing just that for a few years now. He takes the waste oil from several local restaurants/fast food places and converts it to biodiesel fuel for his bus and home oil burning furnace.
    This can be done for both large and small scale operations.

  12. Chris S permalink
    July 10, 2009

    It would be nice if the government led by example.

    If federal facilities and military bases were obliged to compost their food wastes and turn used cooking oil into biodiesel, there would not only be substantial savings ( saved cost of landfilling, reduced cost of maintaining landscaped grounds, low cost fuel to supplement current supplies), but it would prove that it can be done and done well if the commitment is there.

  13. jonce permalink
    July 10, 2009

    My new compost bin provided for $5 from the City of Phoenix!

  14. Andy permalink
    July 11, 2009

    I use an old micro-refrigerator and stick a bag full of soil into a large plastic flower pot. Then I stuck three dozen Canadian night crawlers and regular earthworms and started a worm farm. All of my food scraps go in there that my dog doesn’t eat. And every time I go fishing on the Chesapeake Bay I take a cup full of those worms and catch huge fish all day. Great way to dispose of food scraps.

  15. Leigh G. permalink
    July 14, 2009

    I have composted vegetable scraps/peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea leaves/bags for years. When I lived in an apartment, I got a red wiggler bin. Now, I use both the worm bin and outdoors bins. Bones, I like to rinse and keep and someday, plan to mix them into plantings. Any meat scraps, I freeze until I know I can get to a place where carrion feeders will eat them–not in our neighborhood woods, but away from the city. A friend uses large red wiggler bins under his greenhouse and, because it’s built into the ground, the worms can last outside overwinter. The worms come in handy when his chickens need some extra protein.

    I don’t know about the energy equations in making biogas from compostables, but one thing I do know is that we’re losing topsoil at too fast a rate, so we ought to compost en masse, the way some cities (Seattle, San Fran) are doing. There’s just no need to landfill food scraps.

  16. July 15, 2009

    You may want to reconsider putting food scraps down the garbage disposal. It’s not good for your septic system. See:

  17. Cameron Colson permalink
    July 15, 2009

    I make mulch out of all my compostables, and; that mulch could be used as a feed stock for a methane digester or, an alcohol fermentation system.
    If it is mostly tree or wood material the use for making alcohol or pulp products would be best a best use of that resource. Alas, I don’t have the time or space to set up a system for fermentation.

    Bio gas systems are the solution to the landfill dilemma, my opinion…

  18. Cyndy permalink
    July 16, 2009

    Compost bins are the best if you want strong healthy plants. The compost is a great natural feed. Meats do not go in, fish is OK I hear. Chicken droppings turn into great compost too. You need to stir it now and then also. It keeps the landfills clear of wasted trash that can be used at home. Recycling is important too. All food waste, that might go into the garbage disposal (if you had one) goes into compost. I love mine!

  19. Cyndy permalink
    July 16, 2009

    My compost is a garden saver. It is easy and great for reducing trash. If my chickens do not eat the items, it goes into my compost bin

  20. randaw permalink
    August 1, 2009

    ‘Tis the ‘law’ in Seattle (as of this spring), Thou shalt separate thy food scraps. So we bag our meat/eggs/dairy into a biodegradable doggie waste bag then into the very small yard waste bin we have. The rest of the food waste goes into a green cone. It stinks, there are flies and it generally doesn’t seem to be working as expected. Fortunately spiders have webbed the entrance. I don’t think much of the green cone and will be experimenting next with a worm bin.

    However, all this has drawn my attention to the degree of our waste and thus an ever expanding practice of getting/cooking only what we will eat. I find we now toss mostly starches.

    On the other side, have also started an extensive organic yard garden and thus a open ‘green’ compost bin for the raw veggie waste from growth (like old broccoli plants). More needs to be done here as well. I seem to be short on dry materials….

  21. michelle permalink
    August 3, 2009

    What if you live in an apartment

  22. LISA permalink
    August 11, 2009

    i have neighbors who just throw there leftover fruit and veggies into the back yard anywhere it lands LOL is there a name for such people as these…. I understand the meaning of a compost, but is there a meaning of what these people do besides LAZY?

  23. steph permalink
    November 9, 2009

    there are compost bins for your countertops with filters. no smell

  24. December 10, 2009

    Compost is the best solution for food waste.

  25. Bart permalink
    March 26, 2010

    Just lik JC, we are making comost of it!

  26. Keith McCain permalink
    April 5, 2010

    I live in Ontario in a smaller town near Toronto and we must use a small composter. It’s the law! I usually juice a lot of fruits and veggies and sometimes feel guilty for throwing away the pulp but knowing its being composted makes me feel much better.

    The composters we use are small and the food leftovers are picked up separate from your typical trash day on a weekly basis. The town has also applied strict laws to pesticide use, and we are moving more into a greener, friendlier future.

    Best wishes,

  27. Will Johnson permalink
    January 25, 2011

    We’ve always used a compost heap in our garden but lately I’ve been wondering if I could use my waste food better. I was thinking of getting some micro pigs (small house / garden so these would be perfect.

    Does anyone know if owning pigs would be more environment friendly than composting alone?

  28. Cory Cook permalink
    May 19, 2011

    That is actually a very good idea if you have the space to make a place for the compost pile. I eat tons of food especially eggs, and I believe egg shells can be very good for the yard. It seems more green friendly too than using commercial fertilizer for you yard. My only concern would be it attracting bugs and animals to the compost pile.

    Good post,

    Cory Cook

  29. Robin Sweere permalink
    August 16, 2011

    Meat can be composted but it is more complex. Meats in the compost bin attract no more pests that meats in a trash bin! Most companies who collect from retailers have specially designed containers to manage these materials and prevent pests- we do!

  30. Shine permalink
    October 29, 2011

    Throw all your food waste in your backyard and you will have organically rich soil.

  31. Stephen Last permalink
    June 20, 2014

    In the undeveloped world a common answer to this question would be that they would build a home biogas digester to digest and produce biogas from all the various wastes from each household, but most particularly including all food waste. At our blog we believe that the mass take-up of small scale anaerobic digestion of this sort has been hijacked by Big Business. The commercialization of the scale of such plants in the west has prevented very simplified small scale biogas production being built in a much smaller way.

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