Food Waste and Composting

Food Waste and Composting- We live in a world with a one-way system. We take resources, use them and bin them. The most waste ends up in landfill sites. The problems with landfill are many. Materials like plastics and metals take many hundreds of years to break down if they do at all. This means that we accumulate rubbish at an exponential rate, especially since the population is still on the increase. Toxins from the waste products are released over time into the soil and end up in our water supply and in our food. Organic waste becomes robbed of oxygen as the layers of landfill cover it, leading to a huge build-up of methane, the most terrible of the greenhouse gases. A lot of plastic waste ends up being broken down into tiny particles which pollute our seas and are ingested by fish, which we then eat. Many of these particles will never disappear.  

What is the solution to this well-known problem? YOU are. You have the power to change the course of our species and slow it all down. All you need to do is learn a little and apply the knowledge in order to change a few habits and reduce your household waste. There are many ways to reduce and eliminate waste.

The first and most obvious way to go zero waste in the household is in the kitchen. It is here in the kitchen that we fill the rubbish bin with packaging, leftovers and all manner of things. The kitchen is guilty for most of our household waste so let’s attack it first I would like to give you some ideas about how to reduce your food waste and save some money in the process. Some people make money by exploiting the environment. Well, we’re here to balance it out. What better way to make money than buying lovely fresh food, making healthy recipes and reducing your waste and your impact on the planet at the same time? Here’s how I do it.  

Where is food wasted? 

Food is wasted in different parts of the production and consumption chain. How much is wasted in which step is dependent on where you live. 

Some food is sorted away and thrown because it’s the wrong size or shape. Some of this food is saved and used for animal feed but most of it doesn’t get used. 

Some food goes off during transport. 

Some food goes past its use-by date and is thrown away in the shop or at home (this generates a large amount of food waste from the home). 

Some food is cooked and then not eaten so it ends up being thrown away.  

Fruit and vegetables have the highest waste rate. 

Some estimates say that you could save up to 900 USD/year by wasting less food. 

 As you can see in the graph in Europe, North America, Oceania and industrialized Asia the food wasted by the consumer is approximately 40% of the total food waste. This is a huge amount! But it also gives us hope. It means that consumers like you and me can really make a difference simply by changing our habits and reducing our food waste. 

Let us delve into what we can do to reduce this number. 

Shop for what you need 

The first step towards a zero-waste kitchen is to start to keep track of what you’ve bought and used. Put a scrap of paper on the fridge and write a few basics on it that you know you eat regularly such as bread, milk, eggs, cheese. For a week keep a tally of how many loaves of bread or baguettes your household gets through, how many litres of milk you use per week or how much fruit you need. Next time you do your weekly shopping make sure you buy enough and not more than you used.  

Better to buy too little and have to make do without every now and again, than to waste your money on food you don’t need. In fact, I found not having exactly what I need for the recipe makes the imagination juices flow and sometimes leads to a fantastic new creation! 

Be careful with fresh greens and spinach in a bag…don’t fall for the 200g at 11 Euro/kg (or $/lb) trick if you know that you’re the only one who likes it or if your recipe calls for only a handful of it. Most likely you’ll use that handful and maybe one more and the rest will go off in the fridge. Pay 16 Euro/kg (or $/lb) for the 70g bag instead. We’re talking a tiny difference in what you actually pay when you’re buying such small amounts and it’s just not worth the waste. Or have a bag of frozen spinach and only buy fresh when you’re not planning on cooking it.  

Composting 

There are inevitable parts of food that we can’t eat. However many of these can be composted. You can compost in the garden, balcony or in the house, although I recommend the former two to avoid any bad smells and because it takes up precious space. There’s no need t compost if you have an insinkerator or wasteking garbage disposal unit. 

What can you compost? 

Fruit 

Vegetables 

Crushed egg-shells 

Garden plants 

Flowers 

Coffee grounds 

Newspaper and shredded paper 

Wood chips 

Make sure you have dry leaves and sticks together with food waste to balance out the carbon and nitrogen sources 

What can’t you compost? 

Meat 

Bones 

Fish 

Perennial weeds 

Diseased plants 

How to do it 

Dig a shallow hole and start there. 

Put a compost container on top or build a box out of leftover wood. 

Try to alternate dry and wet materials as you fill it. 

Cover it and keep it a little moist, water during the dry season. 

Turn the pile to get oxygen in 

If you have it in the house, you can use any container as long as it has holes in it as you need oxygen. Make sure you add wet and dry materials so it doesn’t get too soggy and start smelling. Turn it regularly. If you have a balcony keep it there so it’s nice and airy.  

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