In WCS Blog

Don't scrap composting! Creative ways to recycle your food waste

Written by Anca Enache

According to Feeding America, 119 billion pounds of food are wasted in the United States each year. Almost 40% of this is food waste in our homes. EPA estimates that, in 2019, about 96% of households’ wasted food ended up in landfills, combustion facilities, or down the drain to the sewer system. Shocking! To make matters worse, when food rots in a landfill, it produces huge amounts of methane — a greenhouse gas at least 28 times as potent as carbon dioxide. But in compost bins, microbes convert that organic matter into nutrient-rich soil, keeping the carbon out of the atmosphere and producing valuable fertilizer. How amazing is this?! We ARE actually in control! We HAVE the power to change things!

I have never liked to waste food. When we eat out, I always take home the leftovers and I eat them in the next few days. I’ll eat a week-old soup and expired yogurt. As long as the food is not spoiled, I don’t see mold, and it tastes fine, I’ll eat it. I have no problem with that, and neither does my stomach. So far so good. 🙂

With the new California statewide mandate aimed at keeping organic waste out of landfills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (State Senate Bill 1383), I’m able to take my effort in reducing food waste to the next level. In addition to avoiding ordering too much, taking home the leftovers, making a weekly meal plan and buying just enough groceries to cover it, I can now give my food scraps a purpose. I can save them from ending up in the landfill and give them a new life in a composting bin.

I live in a small gated community with not much greenery unfortunately, so we don’t have a green bin. The kitchen pail provided by the City of Los Angeles is small enough to stay on my countertop, but I do have to empty it every two to three days. So my challenge at this point is to find a convenient place to empty the pail. 

In the first few weeks I scouted green bins left out on my street and opened them to see if they were empty. One of the requirements is to have some trimmings in the bin before the pail can be emptied–I caught some confused looks from my neighbors while pursuing my mission! As luck had it, with the rainy spring days, the bins were mostly empty or filled with water. 

Here are some things to try if you’re looking for ways to empty your pail:

  • Ask a family member or friend if you can add to their green bin. I save scraps in my garage for a week and take it to my brother’s house to use his green bin right before trash day.
  • Contact your local farmers’ markets to see if any collect food scraps.
  • Contact your city or county to inquire about places that collect food scraps. I was able to get a list of Compost Co-Ops in my area from the City of LA.

If you are wondering what you can add in this pail, here it is:

  • Fruits, vegetables
  • Dairy, eggshells
  • Bread, cereal, grains, rice, pasta, beans
  • Meat, bone, fish, shells
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Food soiled paper products
  • Natural wood chopsticks (clean, untreated, not lacquered)
  • 100% natural bamboo (clean, untreated, not coated)
  • Natural corks

The pail is not required to start recycling your food scraps. Any container of choice (e.g., bowl, paper bag, etc.) can be used to collect food scraps and take them to the green bin. By placing my food scraps in a green bin, I am participating in a commercial composting program. If you do your own composting in your backyard, not all the food scraps types mentioned above will be allowed (hold off the meat and dairy products).

The compost co-ops were the solution for me, and with that I was able to divert about 32 pounds of food scraps from landfill (an average of seven lbs  per week) since I started. Seven lbs may not seem like a lot, but if all the WCS members did this, we could divert approx. 3800 lbs a week!  It is estimated that every pound of food thrown away results in 3.8 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, so our individual efforts will add up to a huge difference. Who’s in?! 

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