Ways to Manage Food Waste for a Sustainable Future

By Jackie Edwards

31%, or 133 billion pounds of the available food supply in the U.S. goes uneaten, the USDA reports. Most of this food waste then goes straight into landfills where it emits pollutants, including methane, a greenhouse gas even more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Needless to say, food waste is a real problem — but it doesn’t have to be! Adopting a sustainable approach to food waste is easy. Reduce your overall food waste by becoming more mindful about what you buy and consume. You can then dispose of the little waste you’re left with with greener alternatives to landfills (garbage disposal systems, composting, and recycling!).  

Reducing food waste

Reducing your food waste means you end up with less to manage. The key is to buy no more perishable food than what you’ll use each week. Plan your meals around food you need to eat before it goes off. Only buy enough ingredients for each planned meal when you go shopping. Check your fridge and cupboards first, so you don’t buy food you already have.

Managing food waste sustainably

After you reduce your food waste, there are ways you can then manage it sustainably. A garbage disposal system is an easy way to dispose of food waste. Instead of a landfill, the waste goes to a water treatment plant. Most plants use anaerobic digestion to convert the waste into biogas, a renewable energy used to generate electricity and heat.

Additionally, composting food waste enriches the soil and minimizes your carbon footprint by reducing emissions. Start your compost heap in a dry, shaded area of your garden. Be sure to keep it moist by wetting dry materials before adding them to the pile.

Read up on what you can and can’t throw into your compost heap. Food items suitable for composting generally include:

  • Fruit and vegetable scraps

  • Fruit pits

  • Tea bags (without the staple)

  • Coffee grounds

  • Egg shells

  • Grain-based foods (including pet food)

Don’t forget to layer the nitrogen-producing food scraps with carbon-producing items, such as, paper towels, grass, dead leaves, and twigs. This is essential for your compost to work properly.

Lastly, if you’re ever stuck with in-date food you’re not going to eat, donate it to a food bank. What you can’t compost should be recycled; keep a food caddy in your kitchen for this. Sending food waste to a landfill should always be the last resort. 


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