In 2018, food waste was the largest component of municipal solid waste (MSW). According to EPA, organic waste, comprised of either food waste or yard trimmings, makes up for about 30% of landfilling in the United States. This number dating from 5 years ago, has only increased with the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a massive rise in waste production. Although this surge in waste is mostly in the medical plastic waste sector, domestic waste was also majorly impacted. People spent more time at home, and fresh and packaged food consumption grew considerably, leading to an increase of 43% in household food waste.
THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF FOOD WASTE
Most of this organic waste can be avoided by composting. Composting allows for the organic waste to be diverted away from landfills. Did you know that the organic waste that ends up in landfills is what produces methane? The organic matter in landfills cannot decompose appropriately due to a lack of oxygen. As the food waste rots, it emits methane — a very potent greenhouse gas.
Composting does not only help with the reduction of GHG emissions, it also produces a nutritious fertilizer that can nourish our soil. Indeed, composting allows for better and more sustained plant growth due to the nutrients found in the compost. Food scraps are highly valuable in terms of nutrients! When they are put back in the soil, it is like all the nutrients are recycled back into the land instead of being wasted in polluting landfills.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Most cities now have some sort of green waste collection system. However, most still do not have that system in place. In fact, even in leading environmental cities like Montreal, the systems need to be more adequate for everyone. The building I was living in last year, located in downtown Montreal, did not have a weekly food waste curbside pickup provided by the city. Only household (landfill) waste and recycling were available. In cases like this, other composting solutions exist when curbside pickup is not in place. Many community gardens offer a composting service, which helps nourish their soil as well as divert food waste from landfills. Every city has different composting possibilities, so it is best to check out the resources available to you!