What would you like your food waste to become?

Here in California, we’re forging ahead with strategies to reduce food waste, which creates greenhouse gas in landfills, and put the resources we have to their best and highest uses.

Organic waste in landfills decomposes and generates methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Forty percent—40 percent!—of the material currently going to California landfills is organic waste. Within that 40 percent is a lot of perfectly good food going to waste while people in your community are food-insecure. A lot of that food waste is obviously not edible—but read on to learn what it could become instead.

CalRecycle is currently working on a framework to implement SB 1383, which passed in November and sets targets to reduce significantly the amount of organic waste going to landfills. SB 1383 also establishes a goal of recovering 20 percent of the amount of edible food waste that is currently disposed and diverting it for human consumption by 2025.

We are really excited about this. We’re talking to grocers and other businesses that generate a lot of organic waste to get that 40 percent number down quickly—but we all have a role.

Careful planning can keep you from buying more food than you need at the grocery store, and it will help you save money, too. Figure out how to incorporate your leftovers into another meal. And don’t be afraid to compost—it’s actually pretty simple.

Sure, meal planning is tedious, and backyard composting is not as convenient as pitching your leftovers into the garbage. Some areas now have organic material pickup, but your waste management rates may have increased as a result of this new service. So it’s important to keep in mind these important greenhouse gas reduction goals, and fellow Californians who are going hungry, as you shop for your groceries and clean up after your meals.

What do you want your uneaten food to become?

1.    If you never buy it in the first place, and your grocery store ends up with extra as a result, that food could very likely end up being donated to a food-rescue group and made available to food-insecure people.

2.    If you compost it in your backyard, it will save you water and enrich your own garden or landscaping, as compost helps soil maintain moisture and returns nutrients to the soil.

3.    If you put it in an organic waste bin and roll it to the curb (check with your local jurisdiction! Some areas allow this, but many do not):

  • It could become compost for agricultural crops, where water retention ultimately reduces runoff and saves water on a much larger scale, and returns nutrients to the soil on a larger scale, making for more productive crop yields. (Read about California’s Healthy Soils initiative here.)
  • It might even go to an anaerobic digester and be converted into biofuel for city buses—or the waste management trucks that picked up the material in the first place!

Or …

4.    You could put it in the garbage and have it go to the landfill every week, where it will decompose along with all the other food waste, and generate more methane that accelerates the dangerous effects of climate change.

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You pick!

There are a lot of us here on the planet, and a lot of us here in California, sharing a finite space and generating a lot of waste that needs to be managed. A lot of people are hungry, and we’re all breathing the air and drinking the water, so we need to manage the resources we have.

— Heather Jones
Posted on Feb 6, 2017

Summary: Here in California, we’re forging ahead with strategies to reduce food waste, which creates greenhouse gas in landfills, and put the resources we have to their best and highest uses.