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THE BIG PROBLEM WITH FOOD WASTE
Almost half of the food produced in the world for consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – gets lost or wasted. What is causing us to add an enormous amount of food waste to the land fill every year?
We could all benefit from making more informed decisions when it comes to food wastage. Of the food America wastes, around 40% of it is completely avoidable and that’s not counting the amount of time and money wasted on preparing all the unused food. 125-160 billion pounds of food are wasted every year, which is both nutritious and edible. Food can be wasted for many reasons, both good and bad: unpredictable weather conditions, problems in processing, poor production forecasting and fluctuations in the markets cause food loss before it even begins to make its way to your local grocery store. Then the excessive ordering, lack of planning and many other reasons can contribute to food waste. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that $218 billion of food is wasted in the U.S. each year. Unused food can be a waste of water and land. And studies show that the use of excess fertilizer used on produce is releasing harmful nitrogen-based nutrients into our soil. With food insecurity rates reaching a shocking 12% of all households in America, reducing waste by just 15% could provide enough sustenance for up to 25.2 million people annually.
What Is Wasted Food?
We can break wasted food down into two categories, food loss and waste. Food loss refers to food that gets spilled, spoilt, or otherwise discarded before it makes its way to being served as a finished product. You might think of food loss as something that occurs during the production or the distribution process, but it can also happen any time later in the chain. Food waste is a problem that refers to food that’s been up until the point of human consumption, but was discarded at some point. Even if it’s not expired or spoiled, it still didn’t get around to being consumed. Retail and customer waste happens more often than other stages in the food supply chain.
America‘s Food Waste Problem
In the US, it is estimated that up to 40% of the food supply is considered wasted food. While the world wastes 1.4 billion tons of food every year, the US alone wastes more that any other country: 40 million tons per year – 80 billion pounds in total. Meaning, Americans waste roughly 220 pounds per person. Food has become the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills, making up 22 percent of municipal solid waste(according to the EPA).
Identifying Where Food is Lost
Once we understand what food waste is, it‘s easier to identify it and see it in every point along the food chain. Identifying points in the food chain that are creating issues with food waste is the first step in learning how they can be fixed.
Farming’s Impact On Food Loss
The USDA estimates that about 30% of food in America is never eaten, either at the retail or consumer level.
Most people are aware of how much food they throw away in their home kitchen and in restaurants, but food loss also happens throughout the supply chain. USDA wants to understand food loss at the farm level and ERS research is integral to this process because ERS adjusts national forecasts for food supplies by taking into account nonedible parts of foods (bones, peels, etc.) and losses that occur on farm-to-fork.
One out of every 7 items of food produced on farms globally is never harvested, or lost. This estimate amounts to around 20 billion pounds lost per year. Food loss on farms can happen for a number of reasons. To become less reliant on unpredictable factors like weather and pests, farmers often plant more than they need. This also protects against price fluctuations where they may end up with a lot of unsold produce. It might seem like a challenge to try to sell products to people given the current chaotic market. There’s also a lot of discussions about food waste happening across the world. When you think about it, farmers are throwing out thousands of pounds of edible food everyday under these situations. If the cost of produce on the market is lower than the cost of transportation and labor, sometimes farmers will leave their crops un-harvested. When there is increased production from the farmers, or less demand for a product, dumping occurs. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers lost a major portion of their business due to restaurants being closed. Farmers are finding it difficult to make money via their crops. They can’t afford the additional cost of harvesting and processing food if there are no buyers. Cosmetic imperfections on produce are a huge factor in why food is wasted before and after harvesting. Consumers are less likely to buy produce that has weird cosmetic issues such as large spots or shapes. Poor food handling procedures can lead to people having no choice but to throw out perfectly good food. Farmers these days are having labor shortages due to changing immigration laws. This has led them to leave food in the fields.
An Article On
Waste Management vs. Composting: Weighing the Pros and Cons
Waste management and composting are two different approaches to dealing with our leftover food and organic waste. Let’s compare the negative effects of waste management with the positive effects of composting food waste to understand the impact on our environment and communities.
Waste Management: The Downside
Waste management, especially when not handled properly, can lead to various negative effects. One significant problem is pollution. Landfills, where a large portion of waste ends up, can contaminate the soil and water. Harmful chemicals from waste materials seep into the ground, polluting our water sources and making them unsafe for both humans and animals. Additionally, when waste is incinerated, it releases harmful gases into the air, contributing to air pollution and respiratory issues for people living nearby.
Another downside of traditional waste management is the depletion of natural resources. To create disposal facilities and manage waste, we often require raw materials. This high demand for resources puts pressure on our environment, leading to deforestation and loss of natural habitats. The manufacturing processes for waste management equipment also contribute to environmental pollution.
Space shortage is a significant challenge associated with waste management. Landfills require vast areas of land, and as our population grows, finding suitable space for waste disposal becomes increasingly difficult. Urban areas, where most waste is generated, face the dilemma of limited space for proper waste disposal, often leading to overflowing landfills and illegal dumping.
Health risks are another concern linked with inadequate waste management. Improperly managed waste sites can attract disease-carrying insects and rodents, increasing the likelihood of diseases spreading to nearby communities. Moreover, the unpleasant odors and unsightly appearance of waste sites can have adverse effects on the physical and mental well-being of residents living in close proximity.
Composting: The Positive Impact
Composting, on the other hand, offers several positive effects that counter the drawbacks of traditional waste management. One of the most significant benefits is the reduction of landfill waste. When organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, is composted, it doesn’t end up in landfills, alleviating the pressure on landfill space and reducing the associated environmental issues.
Composting also enriches the soil and helps plants grow. Compost acts as a natural fertilizer, enhancing soil structure, improving water retention, and providing essential nutrients for plants. This natural fertilizer reduces the need for chemical-based fertilizers, promoting healthier and more sustainable agricultural practices.
Moreover, composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions. When organic waste breaks down in landfills, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting, on the other hand, allows organic waste to decompose aerobically, significantly reducing methane emissions and mitigating the impact on climate change.
Additionally, composting encourages community involvement and awareness. It educates people about the importance of recycling organic waste and promotes a sense of responsibility towards the environment. Community composting initiatives often bring people together, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared environmental stewardship.
In conclusion, while traditional waste management has its share of negative effects, composting emerges as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative. By diverting organic waste from landfills, enriching soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and fostering community engagement, composting offers a practical solution to many of the environmental challenges posed by improper waste management. Embracing composting practices can lead us toward a greener, healthier future for our planet and communities.
Reducing Food Waste: A Closer Look at the Top 10 Most Wasted Foods
Food wastage is a pressing global issue, contributing to environmental problems and economic losses. Understanding the most wasted foods is crucial in tackling this problem effectively. Here, we delve into the top 10 most wasted foods and explore ways to reduce their wastage.
Bread, a staple in many diets, is frequently wasted due to its perishable nature. When not consumed in time, it becomes stale or moldy, leading to disposal. To reduce bread wastage, repurpose stale bread into croutons, bread pudding, or breadcrumbs.
2. Fruits and Vegetables:
Fresh fruits and vegetables have a limited shelf life and are often discarded when they spoil. Ugly produce, although perfectly edible, is also frequently wasted. Proper storage techniques, such as refrigeration and using produce promptly, can extend their freshness.
3. Dairy Products:
Dairy items like milk, cheese, and yogurt are prone to spoilage. Often, dairy products are discarded once they pass their expiration dates. Consumers can prevent wastage by checking the freshness labels, using products before they expire, and opting for smaller quantities to avoid surplus.
Meat and seafood have short shelf lives, making them susceptible to wastage. Proper storage at low temperatures and freezing can extend their usability. Consumers should plan meals to utilize meat products promptly, preventing them from going bad before consumption.
5. Processed Foods:
Packaged and processed foods, including ready-to-eat meals and snacks, are often wasted when they reach their expiry dates. Checking labels for the “best before” date and consuming items before they expire can significantly reduce the wastage of processed foods. Donating surplus non-perishables to food banks is another way to minimize waste.
6. Rice and Grains:
Rice, pasta, and other grains are staples in many diets but are frequently wasted due to improper storage and overcooking. Storing grains in airtight containers can prevent pests and prolong freshness.
Potatoes are versatile and widely consumed, yet they often go to waste. Improper storage in cold or damp conditions can cause sprouting and spoilage. Storing potatoes in a cool, dark, and dry place can extend their freshness. Using bruised or sprouted potatoes for soups or mashed dishes can prevent wastage.
8. Milk and Juice:
Liquid dairy products, like milk, and fruit juices are perishable and prone to wastage. Buying smaller quantities and checking expiration dates can help consumers manage their usage effectively.
Eggs have a relatively short shelf life and are often wasted. Checking the freshness by performing the float test can help determine if an egg is still edible. Using eggs promptly and incorporating them into various recipes can prevent wastage.
10. Cooking Oils:
Cooking oils, especially those used for frying, degrade over time and with repeated use. Properly storing oils in cool, dark places and avoiding overheating during cooking can extend their usability. Recycling used oil for biodiesel production or proper disposal methods can minimize environmental impact.
In conclusion, reducing food waste requires a collective effort from producers, retailers, and consumers. By being mindful of our consumption, understanding expiration dates, and utilizing creative ways to repurpose leftovers, we can significantly curb the wastage of these top 10 most wasted foods. Embracing sustainable practices not only conserves valuable resources but also contributes to a healthier planet for future generations.
Article On What Is The Difference Between A Food Recycling Digester Machine And Food Recycling Services?
In the quest for sustainable living and responsible waste management, the spotlight has turned toward innovative solutions in handling organic waste, particularly in the realm of food recycling. Two prominent players in this field are food recycling digester machines and food recycling services. While both contribute to the noble cause of diverting organic waste from landfills, they operate in distinctive ways, catering to diverse needs and contexts. Let’s delve into the differences between these two approaches to better understand their roles in reshaping our relationship with food waste.
Food Recycling Digester Machines: The Technological Marvels
Food recycling digester machines represent a technological leap in waste management, offering a decentralized solution for handling organic waste at its source. These machines are designed to be installed on-site, whether in commercial kitchens, restaurants, or large institutions. The primary goal is to efficiently process and reduce food waste on the premises, minimizing the environmental impact associated with transportation and centralized processing.
One key feature of food recycling digester machines is their ability to break down organic waste rapidly. These machines use advanced technologies, such as microbial digestion or mechanical processes, to accelerate the decomposition of food waste. The result is a reduction in volume and the conversion of organic material into nutrient-rich byproducts, such as compost or liquid fertilizer.
The decentralized nature of food recycling digester machines provides several advantages. By processing food waste on-site, these machines eliminate the need for frequent waste hauling, reducing transportation-related emissions. Additionally, the byproducts produced by these machines can be used locally, contributing to a closed-loop system that benefits the immediate environment.
However, it’s essential to note that the capacity of food recycling digester machines is often limited by their physical size. While they are highly effective for localized waste management, they may not be suitable for handling the large-scale organic waste generated by entire communities or cities.
Food Recycling Services: Collaborative Waste Management
In contrast to the on-site, technology-driven approach of food recycling digester machines, food recycling services operate on a broader scale, offering comprehensive waste management solutions. These services encompass the collection, transportation, and centralized processing of organic waste from various sources, including residential areas, businesses, and institutions.
Food recycling services typically involve scheduled pickups of organic waste, which is then transported to centralized facilities for processing. These facilities may utilize large-scale composting, anaerobic digestion, or other advanced methods to convert organic waste into valuable resources, such as compost, biogas, or liquid fertilizers.
One notable advantage of food recycling services is their ability to handle significant volumes of organic waste efficiently. This centralized approach allows for economies of scale, making it feasible to process large quantities of waste in a streamlined and cost-effective manner. Additionally, food recycling services often incorporate professional expertise to optimize waste processing and ensure compliance with environmental regulations.
While food recycling services offer a solution for communities and businesses that may not have the space or resources for on-site digesters, they come with logistical considerations. The transportation of waste to centralized facilities introduces a carbon footprint associated with the collection vehicles, impacting the overall sustainability of the process.
Choosing the Right Approach: Factors to Consider
When deciding between a food recycling digester machine and food recycling services, several factors come into play. The scale of waste generation, available space, logistical considerations, and environmental priorities all play a crucial role in determining the most suitable approach.
For businesses or institutions with limited space and a commitment to on-site waste reduction, food recycling digester machines may be the optimal choice. These machines offer a decentralized solution that aligns with sustainability goals and reduces the reliance on external waste processing.
On the other hand, food recycling services are well-suited for communities or businesses with substantial organic waste generation and logistical challenges in implementing on-site solutions. The centralized processing capabilities of these services allow for efficient handling of large volumes of waste, contributing to a more streamlined waste management process.
As we navigate the complex landscape of food waste management, the choice between food recycling digester machines and food recycling services hinges on specific needs and priorities. Both approaches play crucial roles in advancing the cause of sustainable living by diverting organic waste from landfills and transforming it into valuable resources. Whether through the decentralized efficiency of on-site digesters or the centralized expertise of comprehensive services, the goal remains the same: a greener, more sustainable future.