One of the major steps that households can take to help the environment and become more eco-friendly, is to reduce the amount of household waste that goes into landfills. And a great place to start with reducing the amount of trash you create is to dispose of food scraps wisely.
What is contributing to food wastage?
As an example, recent reports show that 11 percent of landfill is contributed by food wastage. This is not just from households but restaurants too. This is mainly due to household consumers overbuying items, thinking they are saving money but buying in bulk. Also within the home, people do not know how to store prepared or cooked food without it spoiling. At restaurants, they are normally governed with such strict rules about food storage plus there is the huge amount of food wastage contributed by diners who do not finish their meals.
Research also shows that consumers do not understand the difference between “use by” and “best before” dates on packaged food. This leads to produce and packaged goods being thrown away for no reason as the consumer feels that eating anything outside of the guidelines will make them sick.
Why are food scraps in regular landfill, bad for the environment?
When any types of wasted food or food scraps are added to landfills, their decomposition creates methane. This is an extremely harmful greenhouse gas that essentially traps heat in the atmosphere. This is causing global side effects and concerns.
How can households reduce food wastage?
There are a couple of things that households can do, to reduce food wastage.
- Spend some time researching ways of how you can use every part of the food. This may involve also planning ahead meals for the week so you can use leftover parts. Reuse things such as meat bones for a broth, or use citrus peels and coffee grounds for cleaning products.
- More and more communities are developing food swap programs or donation services that provide leftover food to homeless or less fortunate people. In some countries there are also apps, where households can take items to swap with neighbours that they won’t use or have overbought. While this doesn’t apply to partially used items, it is a handy initiative to take advantage of for items you may no longer need.
- Invest in starting a compost heap. While initially there may be some money required to get it started, the benefits for your garden will be worth it. Creating your own nutrient rich soil to then start your own herb and vegetable garden will benefit your household and the environment long term.
But are compost heaps good for the environment?
As there are with all actions and processes that we want to take to become more eco-friendly, there are pros and cons in having a compost heap. Below, we have outlined the pros and cons of starting one at home.
- Your food scraps will have a second life. By adding the right food scraps to your compost, the nutrients from the scraps will create top-quality soil which you can use for growing your own food.
- You will be reducing the amount of garbage your household produces, therefore less curbside pickups for your house.
- Compost heaps are a great source of education for children and grandchildren. Around the world, more kindergartens and schools are becoming self-sufficient with growing their community food, and are composting with the children; demonstrating the life cycle of produce.
- There is an initial cost to set your compost heap up correctly.
- Compost heaps take up a large surface area so those with smaller backyards or no yard at all may struggle to compost effectively.
- They take time and effort to manage. You cannot just throw food scraps onto a pile and leave them.
Possible concerns that may arise with managing a compost heap
So now you have decided to get a compost heap, you know you are doing that little bit extra to help the environment. Even though the points on the con list are things you are not concerned with, there are a few additional considerations and possible concerns that arise as you get started and throughout your composting journey. These possible concerns could be:
- You cannot place ALL food scraps into the same compost. There are many different timelines for food decomposition so those who are truly serious about composting all of their food scraps, may find that they need to have multiple compost heaps. Multiple compost heaps outside also mean separation of scraps inside, unless you dispose of the scraps as you go, and nobody has time for that.
- The aim of the compost heap is to not produce greenhouse gases. To ensure your heap does not overheat and produce methane, you will need to constantly turn over the heap and tend to it regularly. It is recommended that this is done daily as well as ensuring the balance between dry and wet is maintained.
- The positioning of your compost heap is crucial. Ensuring that it is not too close to the house as the smell can be quite strong on occasion. You also need to be mindful that heat is produced so in some dryer regions this could be a potential fire hazard.
- Consider children’s play areas and your pets. Compost heaps can attract rodents and snakes from the food scraps and warmth, and be a danger to children and animals.
It is always advised for people to complete their own research, before investing in a new system. Chatting to local gardening specialists as well as checking in with your local council is a great place to start to get first hand information.