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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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82 Responses leave one →
  1. Dave Engelhardt permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Won’t meat attract rats?

  2. Dave Engelhardt permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Won’t meat in compost attract rats?

  3. Mary G permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I feed it to my pet pig.

  4. Chris S permalink
    July 6, 2009

    No such thing! If the cats, dogs, pigs, chickens or what have you won’t eat it, then it gets buried in the garden or added to the compost pile.

    I’m thinking about getting a worm composter to make it easier to collect worm castings – and worms- to use elsewhere.

    In my opinion, so called “sanitary” landfills are a major blight on the landscape and to society on a whole. If you can’t manage the garbage you produce, then maybe you shouldn’t be producing it.

  5. Tree Hugger Grl permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I live in an apartment and we have a yard waste bin. We can compost everything except for meat and dairy. I rarely eat meat, so rarely have meat waste. Also, the dairy I don’t consume can go down the drain. Occasionally I’ll have little bits of cheese that have molded and I have to throw that in the garbage. Unfortunately, my neighbors haven’t figured out how to use the yard waste bin.

    The city of Seattle recently began allowing meat in the yard waste. I believe they have more frequent pick up to avoid the rat problem.

  6. Susan Hedge permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I have two compost piles: one for large garden clippings; one round rolling enclosed barrel for scrapings from the table. I feed all the veg peelings, fruit and any fresh produce to my composting worms.

  7. Sylvia Hughes permalink
    July 6, 2009

    It depends on what the food is.
    1) Small bits of meat, bone, or protein type foods, I will feed to my dog.
    2) Vegetative foods or juices will go down in my garbage disposal

  8. Lindsay permalink
    July 6, 2009

    This question is especially appropriate for me this week. Up until 4 days ago we lived in a house with limited counter space and not particularly easy access to the backyard. Composting food scraps seemed like too much trouble. Our new house has a lot of counter space and very easy access to our compost pile out back. So, I will now be composting my food waste. I plan to put a pitcher that has an easily removable top on the counter in which I will collect the scraps and I will regularly empty it to the compost in the backyard. I am looking forward to adding this “green” component to my life.

  9. Geri permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I live in the city, but I have a compost bin in my back yard. All my waste, except meat goes in the bin. I have a garden in my front yard that is all perennials, I use the compost to feed those plants. My meat I put behind my grape vine trellis for the raccoons and possoms. Between my composting, and recycling, I only have one bag of garbage per week. That’s not bad with a family of four.

  10. Ann permalink
    July 6, 2009

    We compost what’s left after we feed the chickens. Meat and dairy go to the chickens, and yes, occasionally we have rats. But the bones littering the chicken yard are slowly bleaching away in the sun and being crushed under foot. No food ever goes in the trash.

  11. Janet permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Compost pile!

  12. Lori Ann permalink
    July 6, 2009

    By planning my meals, I am able to make what I need. If my family is not going to eat it, I am not going to make it. Portion control is important. If extra food is left over it goes to work the next day for lunch, or put in the fridge for Thursday night leftovers that may have accumulated throughout the week (this helps me clear out space for the groceries I will buy on the weekend).
    Anything that does not get eaten, or goes bad before someone gets to it, gets put out for animals. Extra waste like used coffee grounds and egg shells get put into an old coffee can to be used outside.

  13. Cynthia permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I compost everything – including weeds, paper from the shredder, kleenexes, dryer lint, meat and dairy. Whatever doesn’t breakdown, gets eaten by the critters (I live in in the more rural part of my town). My 16′ by 6′ pile is more like a landfill because I don’t really use it – but I rarely send more than 2-3 very small bags of trash (plastics that can’t be recycled) to the landfill each month.

  14. Lee permalink
    July 6, 2009

    We compost all our food waste, and use it on our vegetable and flower gardens. We eat very little meat, since it requires so much water, land and energy, so that isn’t an issue. The challenge is making it really easy for people. Haulers need to pick it up just as they pick up other recyclables. (Our haulers are required to include recycling as part of their trash service.)

  15. mike permalink
    July 6, 2009

    When it is my turn to cook, I try to adopt a “no leftover” policy and make just enough for that meal since leftovers tend to become waste (this has been a challenge since we became “empty nesters).” I also have a barrel composter but I am a novice at composting and must confess the rate of composting is not consistent with my level of patience. I would appreciate some tips. Should I add worms?

  16. Luis Visani permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Ok, food waste should have an apropriate local to be disposal, because may leach and reach the groundwater and acidify the soil and water. The irregular disposal may atract animals and insects, sometimes a large amount of these waste may generate a public health problem. These concerns must be considered by governments. It’s necessary arrange apropriate locals to disposal and recycle these food waste, but the neighbors that live around must be take into account. A selective collect will guarantee that none of toxic waste are present.

  17. Jose Manuel Salcedo permalink
    July 6, 2009

    we are working in produce compost.
    since 2005, we did it working for local government.
    now 2009 we started our own business.
    we apreciate all the technical information regarding this process (composting), and all contact with people interested in doing with us.

  18. real bourassa permalink
    July 6, 2009

    We try the best we can to save food waste the best we can because we would nt like to be infest of vermins. That’s one reason why we don’t do compost.

  19. July 6, 2009

    Utilization of volume reduction technology will make a significant difference. Ozonator NG-1000 reduces all waste volumes by 90% while completely sanitizing everything. Absolutely no oder with ZERO emissions.

  20. Leigh permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Eggshells get crushed and put around the base of plants to deter slugs. All other plant-based waste go in my Earth Machine compost bin (got it for free from a state compost awareness program). I use the compost to feed my vegetable plants, potted plants and flowers. Works great! I grew a 300-pound pumpkin last year using nothing but compost for food.

  21. Geri permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Mike, Redworms are great in the compost. If you live in a warmer climate they will thrive, if not you will have to re-add them yearly, because they can’t survive under 45 degrees. A regular heat compost works well too. I’ve done both at one time or another. Just remember to keep them moist.

  22. Janet FW permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I have two bins for plant based food waste, a plastic “Earth machine” and a wooden box with a lid. I use red wriggler worms and shredded newpaper for bedding. Unfortunately I cannot put meat or dairy in my worm bins as I live on a small city lot and it attracts rats. I do my best to cook only what will be eaten that day or the next as leftovers.

  23. Anonymous permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Meat should NOT go in compost. Only fruit and vegetable scraps, breads, and eggshells.

  24. Anonymous permalink
    July 6, 2009

    There are compost bins you can buy that keep out pests.

  25. Anonymous permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I wish I could compost but I live in a 2nd story apartment with no place to put a bin.

  26. Bengt Littorin permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I do compost all my food waste and have done so for a long time. It works fine if you manage it well.
    However this is not the optimal way of handle food waste. A compost will give you a valuable end product for gardening but in the same time leak a little methane. The energy content in the organic matter is also wasted. The best way is to collect food waste and produce biogas that you upgrade to a quality that can be used to drive cars and trucks. In that way you will get both the energy and can recirculate the nutrients. A co2 neutral fuel that also help in recirculate nutrients is a god thing.

  27. us of a permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Well if you gluttons ate the food set in front of you, you wouldn’t have to recycle your food now would you??

  28. Jackenson Durand permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I was always trying to math a real life accounting by avoiding over shopping.
    Nutritionists would not get food wasted because they would know how to consume to better balance their nutrition fact.
    I consume with capacity and time because I know how amount of food wasted volumes conservative affects human respiratory system health and fresh air productive environment.

  29. Kelly Webb permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I compost anything that is not meat or dairy, especially coffee grounds. I also compost my yard scraps (leaves, twigs, etc.) Composting eggshells is great, but make sure you wash them out otherwise you will get rodents – at least that is what I found. I use my compost on my yard plants and put it in my potted plants in the spring, they love it! My favorite thing about composting is that my garter snake keeps warm in the spring due to the heat of my compost. My son has named her (or her progeny, my son doesnt know this.) We get to do this in middle of a big city – somthing very important for our children.

  30. Jocelyn permalink
    July 6, 2009

    We have a worm compost! It works great! It’s amazing how much those worms can handle! When it gets too full, we put the rich soil on our garden. We don’t have any problems with smell-the bin stays right in our basement. We’ve even taught a 4-H workshop and helped other people get started with vermicomposting.

  31. Anonymous permalink
    July 6, 2009

    Have you thought of worm composting? You could put a bin right under your sink.

  32. JoAnn permalink
    July 6, 2009

    I put waste food except meat and bones into my compost along with yard waste, and use the soil produced on my gardens!

  33. TAHIR AHMAD permalink
    July 6, 2009

    we live in third world countries and just cant think of wasting our food……………………………TAHIR

  34. klasse35 permalink
    July 7, 2009

    Only Plastic cannot be recycled… ?
    This really is a problem especially as some sellers want their name for a long time be seen on everlasting Plastic Bags.. But there are some firms which use the Plastic for making garden Furniture and Garbage-Bins and boxes for elevated garden-arrangements.(preventing Low-Back-Pain)
    In some countries in Europe they collect materials sorted as Plastic,
    Metals, Glass, Paperware and cardboard to be recycled.
    For Garden-cuttings we use a shredder, the fresher cut and shredded the better and easier food it is for the earth-worms like a handful of “Tennessee Wigglers we’ve got as present from a gardener-friend.
    Within 3 month the movable closed bin, areated from below, where all kitchen rests go including bones and too much roasted meat, including surplus oils from fish-conserves, soaked into used tissue-paper can be put as additive to the bigger heap of leavs and grass-cuttings. latest in 6 months all can be spread onto flower garden amd around the trees.

  35. vishal garg permalink
    July 7, 2009

    I give it to my pets, the remaining i dump for two-three weeks to make the very useful manure for garden.

  36. Amrita permalink
    July 7, 2009

    Hi !

    One way of dealing with food waste is to reduce its creation. Consumers can reduce their food waste output at point-of-purchase and in their home by adopting some simple measures like planning when shopping for food is important, spontaneous purchases are shown as often the most wasteful; proper knowledge of food storage reduces foods becoming inedible and thrown away.
    In areas where waste collection is a public function, food waste is usually managed by the same governmental organization as other waste collection. Food waste can be dumped, but food waste can also be fed to animals or it can be biodegraded by composting or anaerobic digestion, and reused to enrich soil.

    With Regards

  37. marty permalink
    July 7, 2009

    I would dearly love to see you sit down and eat egg shells, banana peels, and coffee grounds.

  38. Pfeiffer Nature Center permalink
    July 7, 2009

    I agree that worm composting is efficient, but isn’t there a problem releasing these non-native worms into the wild? Isn’t there a native worm that will work well?

  39. Linda permalink
    July 7, 2009

    I’m like many others who have replied: between the dog, the compost heap, and the garbage disposal (which leads to a septic tank), no food or yard waste goes into the trash; it’s too valuable to throw away. And since I am using a septic system, I’m also not contributing to overburdening the local public sewer system.

  40. Tammy permalink
    July 7, 2009

    I live in Philadelphia. I got a free compost bin from the state of PA. I compost all food scraps (except meat), including my used tea bags, and the fresh flowers my husband gets me. I even bring the banana peels and stuff home from the office. It is great to use to condition the soil, which is really crappy (cheaper than buying soil and compost from the nursery). I can make enough of it during planting season. It is really a simple thing to do and the benefits far outweigh any perceived inconvenience.

  41. Leigh permalink
    July 7, 2009

    I’ll add fruit pits, cherry stems and pineapple tops to that list!

  42. Gillian permalink
    July 7, 2009

    I compost! And I’m pleased to say that 1) it is very little extra work 2) I get great soil (and so I save money on buying soil) and 3) it doesn’t smell at all….or rather, it smells like fresh soil or grass clippings. Lovely! It is amazing how quickly organic material degrades.

    There is always food waste..since you don’t eat carrot peels, broccoli stubs, or tomato stems. Think of everything that could be composted just from preparing food.

    Yet, I also agree that, as a nation, we could do a better job of only preparing what we will eat.

  43. Don permalink
    July 7, 2009

    Thanks for all the ideas. I will give several a try.

  44. frangello permalink
    July 7, 2009

    What waste. Thanks to Obama I am so broke I don’t have any scraps I eat everything but the bone and the dog gets that.

    I hope I don’t have to eat the dog

  45. Chris S permalink
    July 7, 2009

    The so called native worms are actually immigrants that came along with the rest of the European settlers – who brought their livestock and rooted plants to establish homesteads.
    Red wigglers like warmer temperatures than nightcrawlers and you can use worms from your local area rather than buying worms from dealers. The dealers use proven varieties (species) – but local stock will work. They just might have higher mortalities or lower reproduction rates.

  46. Chris S permalink
    July 7, 2009

    The energy is hardly “wasted” – it is being used by small organisms to make more small organisms and a finished product that will help grow larger organisms ( plants) or feed worms ( verimiculture).

    To be worth the effort to generate a reliable and usable supply of methane, you need really large quantities of organic matter. Lots of manure (animal or green manure) and it works well for villages or large farms – but not the average household. Don’t forget that methane is the gas that causes explosions in mines, so it needs to be handled in a responsible manner.

  47. Chris S permalink
    July 7, 2009

    So true – most Americans have no idea what hunger really is in less advantaged areas of the world. Our climate and natural resources have provided us with so much – that we now expect that as the “norm”.

  48. Beckie permalink
    July 7, 2009

    I throw my food waste to my chickens. They can take care of any food waste with the exception of rotten meat and avocados, and they dispatch it quickly and cleanly. In return, I get amazing fresh eggs right from my backyard! it works out great most of the time – occasionally, like this morning, I have to chase a chicken around my urban neighborhood which is usually good for a laugh from my neighbors. small price to pay if you ask me!

  49. Beckie permalink
    July 7, 2009

    i think you mean thanks to Bush. In case you don’t remember (food deprivation can cause weakening of mental capabilities) the economy crashed in 2008 under the former President.

  50. Chris S permalink
    July 7, 2009

    There are makers of compost bins & worm bins that use recyled plastics in the manufacture of their products.

    A worm bin can be made from just about anything – used plastic tubs or scrap wood. Instructions can be found from a number of websites at no cost. Use the worm castings for houseplants if you’re not a gardener and give the worms to a youth group use for fishing. We need to act more like a village and less like isolated individuals, because when the bow of the boat goes under, the stern follows right behind.

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