The Effects of Food Waste

 

If you’re like me then you probably only care about food when it’s currently in front of you. Until recently, I had little idea of where my food came from - and at what cost. Similarly, I did not know anything about what happened to food in the landfill. As I started composting, I wanted to know exactly why I was doing it and if I was actually making a difference. So I decided to look at the life of my food before and after its time with me.

1. Production

Through the growing stages of the food, plants need lots of water. And even worse than that, animals need water and food to grow up healthy. This means that perfectly edible food goes to a cow first, then the cow goes to you. So if you waste that steak, you’re almost wasting twice the amount of food and water.

2. Transportation

Once the food is fully grown it must be shipped to packing facilities, restaurants, grocery stores, caterers, your home, etc. These (sometimes multiple and sometimes intercontinental) trips waste very valuable resources such as gas and electricity.

3. Consumption (or lack thereof)

This is the stage in which the food, obviously, should be consumed. If the food is enjoyed then, in my opinion, the above effects of food on our environment are totally worth it. Because, I mean, we all have to eat.

4. Landfill

If the food is not consumed then it will have to be disposed of. In most cases, this means it will end up in the landfill. At first thought, this does not seem all that bad, I mean it’s just natural materials, right? Maybe I’m alone in thinking this, but I definitely did not think it was awful to throw out food waste. However, I was very wrong. When food waste does not have access to air as it is decomposing it releases methane gas. Methane is responsible for about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Keeping food out of the landfill and allowing it to breakdown alongside oxygen keeps tons of methane from being released.

 

Step 4 should really be composting, not the landfill. As I work towards lowering my waste, I have found that composting helps tremendously. There is some food waste we just can't help but create: carrot tops, ends of vegetables, apple cores, the occasional bad fruit we accidentally buy at the store. Even the most conscious people can make mistakes. Knowing that I divert a small amount of waste from the landfill every time I use my compost bin is honestly such a great feeling!