The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a continued effort to educate businesses and food entrepreneurs on proper food disposal, have established a food recovery hierarchy. The agency explains that although normal food disposal routines may reduce leftover waste, plenty of inedible components remain that cannot be reduced without proper composting.
When correctly composted, key nutrients are recycled into soil, allowing our environment to replenish the air, regrow food, and keep harmful toxins away from potable water.
Why Composting Is Important
To reduce landfill usage, composting has been encouraged for decades as a means for farmers to manufacture mature humus, a vital component of crop regrowth. Combining solid and organic wastes, yard trimmings, and other biodegradable wastes with wood and other materials into a curable mixture creates compost. Treating compost at high temperatures matures it.
The remarkable benefits of composting are immediately realized through a reduction of odors in the community and an increase in soil regeneration, among many other benefits. Proper composting has been linked to reforestation, wetland restoration, and higher crop yields when used in commercial agriculture. For the layperson, composted products can be considered gifts to Mother Nature.
Examples of Large-Scale Composting
San Diego’s Petco Park implemented composting measures in 2005 that have contributed to reduced trash removal costs. In 2011 alone, the Padres’ home stadium delivered over 160 tons of compost to landfills, which equaled $75,000 in business savings.
The University of Minnesota uses a waste minimization initiative in its dining services; outsources its fryer oil recycling to an ecologically safe company; uses 75 percent compostable products, including napkins and to-go containers; and partners with the Food Recovery Network to donate its unused foodstuffs for the benefit of those in need.
More school cafeterias and businesses are expected to join the composting revolution over time, although more education is needed to help them determine whether on-site or outside composting would better suit their needs.
Composting Will Reduce Food Waste
Americans toss roughly $600 in perfectly compostable food annually, which equates to 14 percent of each household’s food bill. Globally, it’s estimated that humans toss enough food to feed everyone in Africa every day for five years. Most food that is disposed of ends up in septic tanks, landfills, or in garbage processing centers instead of being reduced to soil. This needs to change.
Personal composting bins are available for those wanting to enrich their soil, whereas others prefer to simply buy or commission compostable bins with tightly sealed lids for collection and composting off-site. Regardless of the route, food waste could be put to more productive use if composted instead of senselessly discarded in garbage collection bins.
Perhaps there is an opportunity here for retailers to not only begin composting themselves but also educate their shoppers on the benefits of composting at home. Given consumer focus on sustainability and green efforts by the brands they support, your efforts won’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Waste reduction through proper composting can do great things for local communities, global economies, and farmers. If you’re unfamiliar with how composting works from start to finish or are interested in learning more about its benefits, the EPA, and many state environmental agencies have plenty of literature available.
It’s time to take action and preserve the soil that feeds us. Help us Stop Waste Together.