Food Waste and Composting
Reducing Wasted Food
Most people don't realize how much food they throw away every day — from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. About 94 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills or combustion facilities. In 2017, we disposed 38.1 million tons of food waste. By managing food sustainably and reducing waste, we can help businesses and consumers save money, provide a bridge in our communities for those who do not have enough to eat, and conserve resources for future generations.
Source: US Environmental Protection Agency
By making small adjustments in how we shop for, prepare, and store food, we can save time and money, and keep the valuable resources used to produce and distribute the food from going to waste!
Consider these tips before making future food purchases:
- Make a shopping list on how many meals you expect to eat at home before your next shopping trip. By buying no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to use it up and keep it fresh.
- Make sure to shop your refrigerator, counter, and cupboards before heading to the store to avoid buying extra.
- Buy in bulk when possible so you can purchase only the amount you need.
- Try to buy local and in-season produce as it will last longer that food shipped long distances.
Consider these tips to keeping fruits and vegetables fresh:
- Store produce so it stays fresh longer with the help of the A-Z Food Storage Guide
- Ripe fruits like bananas, tomatoes, and apples produce gases that make other produce ripe, so store separately if you can.
- To prevent mold, wash berries just before you eat them.
Prepare your food now and eat it later:
- By preparing perishable foods as soon as possible, preferably post-shopping, you'll make it easier to serve snacks and meals later in the week, saving time, effort and money.
- Store prepped food in air-tight storage containers to preserve freshness.
- At the beginning of the week, cook in large batches and store in meal-sized containers, for easy meals throughout the week. This will also make it easy to freeze if you can't get to it all in time.
Eat What You Buy:
- Your freezer is your friend! If you know you aren't going to finish an item in time, throw it in the freezer to extend its life by months or more. Check out this guide for help with freezing.
- Even if your berries, carrots, or other produce are no longer fresh enough to eat raw, they are still great for using in a smoothie, soup, stir-fry, or other meals.
- If you aren't sure how to use an item that you need to get rid of, check out this webpage full of great recipes for using up leftovers.
What is compost?
Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed in a process called composting. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner.
Tips to start your own home backyard composting:
- There are many different ways to make a compost pile or operate a compost bin. We have provided the following information for general reference. Helpful tools include pitchforks, square-point shovels or machetes, and water hoses with a spray head. Regular mixing or turning of the compost and some water will help maintain the compost.
- Select a dry, shady spot near a water source for your compost pile or bin.
- Add brown and green materials as they are collected, making sure larger pieces are chopped or shredded. Equal parts of brown and green material should be added.
- Moisten dry materials as they are added.
- Once your compost pile is established, mix grass clippings and green waste into the pile and bury fruit and vegetable waste under 10 inches of compost material.
- Optional for compost piles: Cover top of compost with a tarp to keep it moist. When the material at the bottom is dark and rich in color, your compost is ready to use. This usually takes anywhere between two months to two years.
You will also find a variety of compost bins available online or at your local retail or hardware store.
What can you compost?
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags
- Nut shells
- Yard trimmings
- Grass clippings
- Dryer lint
- Shredded paper
- Hay and straw
- Wood chips
- Hair and fur
Do Not Compost
|Oleander bushes||Releases substances that might be harmful to plants|
|Coal or charcoal ash||Might contain substances harmful to plants|
|Dairy products (e.g., butter, milk, sour cream, yogurt) and eggs||Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies|
|Diseased or insect-ridden plants||Diseases or insects might survive and be transferred back to other plants|
|Fats, grease, lard, or oils||Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies|
|Meat or fish bones and scraps||Create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies|
|Pet wastes (e.g., dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter)||Might contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans|
|Yard trimmings treated with chemical pesticides||Might kill beneficial composting organisms|