What Happens To Food Waste In Landfills – According to a United Nations analysis, one-sixth of the food produced worldwide is wasted. In 2019, approximately 931 million tons of food was placed in waste from households, retailers, restaurants and other food services.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and UK-based charity WRAP, which promotes sustainability, looked at food waste in retail outlets, restaurants and homes by examining government data and academic research across 54 countries and looking at income.
What Happens To Food Waste In Landfills
Their joint 2021 Food Waste Index report found that 17 percent of all food produced is thrown away by consumers. Most of this waste—11 percent of the total food waste—occurs in homes. Globally, the average person throws away 121 kg of food, of which 74 kg is produced by households.
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Food waste is not a problem in high-income countries, the report says. On average, per capita food waste per year is 79 kg in high-income countries and 91 kg in middle-income countries.
The report includes both edible and non-edible waste, such as bones or vegetable peels that should be thrown away. Lower-middle-income countries may have more food waste per capita because food is often prepared from scratch, which can increase food waste.
“More information is needed on household and non-edible food waste, especially in middle-income countries,” says a UNEP representative.
Food loss, post-harvest and consumer waste have a significant impact on the environment and climate change, accounting for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It also increases demand for agricultural land and increases water use.
Out Of The Landfill And Into The Compost Pile
According to United Nations figures, 690 million people go to bed hungry, a number expected to rise sharply as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and 3 billion people do not have access to a healthy diet.
Richard Swannell at WRAP says reducing food waste is vital and everyone has a role to play. “Instead of focusing on the supply chain, we should work with campaigns to change the behavior of household food waste,” he says.
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Compost is a pile of organic waste that breaks down or “decomposes” over time into nutrient-rich soil.
A compost pile is usually made from a mixture of food scraps, garden clippings or fresh manure and ‘green’ organic materials such as dead or dry leaves, cardboard and wood chips. “Green” materials contain a chemical called nitrogen, and “brown” materials contain a chemical called carbon.
These chemicals, plus air and water, create the perfect environment for small organisms like bacteria and molds, as well as creatures like worms and insects. They feed on organic matter and help break it down.
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The composting process is part of the life cycle. It naturally protects and nourishes the soil as dead leaves fall and decay on the forest floor.
Compost is very useful! It can be added to regular soil to help plants, flowers and crops grow faster and stronger. Instead of buying fertilizer, we can make it for free at home or at school.
Composting also helps keep our planet safe and clean. How is that? Let’s see while we’re at it
Usually, people throw food waste and other organic waste into the landfill, which ends up in a completely different, much larger pile called a “landfill.” A landfill is a huge pile of garbage that will never be broken down. This is because it contains organic and inorganic waste like plastic which cannot be decomposed naturally.
Climate And Resources
Landfills can be a big problem for our air and water. Food left inside the landfill can’t get the air it needs to be composted. Instead, it does two things. First, it produces a gas called methane. This gas is highly flammable and can cause dangerous landfill fires. Methane also causes climate change by warming the Earth’s atmosphere.
Second, the feed sends water to the bottom of the landfill pile. The lower layers of trash sink into this water, and some of it—like plastic—contains toxic chemicals that over time form a toxic black liquid. This liquid has a special name, “landfill,” and it can leach out of landfills and into our rivers, lakes, and groundwater.
Composting – we can avoid all this! It’s an easy way to help slow climate change and keep drinking water and the aquatic environment safe and clean.
Organic material makes up between a quarter and a half of our household waste, so composting will also reduce the amount of waste in our landfills and landfill space.
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The first step is to separate your organic (food and garden) waste and your inorganic waste (plastic, metal, glass). Your non-organic waste can also be separated into recyclables and non-recyclables, but that’s another topic 😉
Make sure everything is in small pieces – don’t use large branches or wooden planks as they will take too long to break down.
* Some countries do not allow meat or dairy products to be composted due to pests, odors and/or local regulations. Check with the adults about this!
**Never compost a pig, cat or dog. They can carry diseases that contaminate your home.
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Next, you need to find a place to compost. The best location is outside in a well-drained area.
You can make your compost in a hole in the ground or in a container. The size you need will depend on how much organic waste your family or school generates.
The container can sit on top of the soil or be completely or partially buried. It will need small holes in the bottom and sides to allow air and water to escape. It may also need a cover to keep out flies, mice, or other vermin, and to keep it dry during heavy rains. Click here for DIY compost bin ideas.
Begin filling your hole or container with organic waste. Always start with loosely packed “brown” material such as small twigs and branches at the bottom and cover this with foliage. It makes a good base layer.
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Then you can add the rest, trying to keep a good balance of “brown” and “green” waste. Keep the layers fairly loose, as the compost pile needs air to work. If your residue is dry, you can sprinkle it with a little water. It should be moist, but definitely not wet.
When finished, place the lid on the container, or cover the hole with a layer of soil.
There are many living organisms in your compost that need to be taken care of. Feed them fresh organic material. Compost should also be mixed or “turned” with garden netting once a week. If it looks dry, sprinkle water to moisten it and add more “green” material. If it is foul or smelly, add dry “carbon” waste such as dry leaves or shredded paper.
Compost can take weeks or months to be ready. It depends on what you put on and the weather. In hot climates, it will be faster than in cold climates because the heat helps break down the organic matter.
More Than Half Of All Landfill Should Be Recycled Or Composted
Finished compost looks like dark, broken soil and has a pleasant, “earthy” smell. Due to the interaction, it may contain undigested waste. Pick these pages and put them back in the container or hole before use.
Use compost like any other fertilizer: in flower beds, on your vegetables, or anywhere else that needs soil nutrients.
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