Composting & Food Waste Reduction

banana peel, egg shells, coffee grounds and other food waste

Overview

Did you know that over 63 million tons of food is sent to landfills each year, and only about 4% of all food we throw away gets diverted to composting? By managing food sustainably and reducing waste, we can save money, provide for those who do not have enough to eat in our communities, and conserve resources for future generations. Wasting food has serious environmental and economic repercussions, as well as far-reaching impacts on our society. Learning the difference between Food Waste and Wasted Food is a first step to understanding this important issue.

Food Waste or “food scraps” primarily consists of organic material discarded during the preparation or cooking of food. For example, food trimmings such as the fat off meats and the nonedible parts of foods like watermelon rinds, banana peels, and peanut shells. Food Waste also includes leftover or partially consumed foods such as pizza crusts or apple cores. Items that are no longer safe for humans to eat, such as moldy bread or spoiled milk, are classified as food waste as well. Most food waste maintains the potential to be composted when separated from the garbage stream.

On the other hand, Wasted Food generally refers to food fit for human consumption but goes to waste before it can be eaten. Estimates are that 14% of all food produced globally never makes it to consumers. This loss can occur during the processing, transporting, preparing, and storing of food from field to market. However, by far the greatest amount of Wasted Food comes from our own kitchens in the form of food spoilage resulting from buying more food than needed. Other Wasted Food includes lower-grade produce such as bruised peaches or unusually shaped (“ugly”) vegetables that go uneaten. Also, packaged food past their sell dates and excess prepared foods are identified as Wasted Food. Much of this Wasted Food could be diverted to help feed needy families or put to better uses rather than sent to landfills.

For information on how you can donate food locally, visit Bread of the Mighty Food Bank.

Backyard Composting

lady putting material into her backyard compost bin Backyard Composting is easy, fun, and a great way to enhance your garden. Composting is a sustainable practice that has been around since the dawn of civilization and is a basic component of organic gardening and farming today. Composting at home provides you with a valuable and natural soil amendment at a fraction of the cost of buying bagged compost product. Adding compost to your yard will improve soil structure, increase the soil’s water retention capacity, and hold nutrients in the soil for a longer time for plants to absorb.

Start Your Backyard Compost Pile

You can start a compost pile any time of the year, and you don’t need to have a green thumb to compost, as nature will do most of the work. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of creating your own nutrient-rich soil that will help your plants and garden vegetables flourish.

Here are some Quick Tips to Getting Started:

  • Choose a compost bin container that best accommodates your available space and budget. Often an inexpensive container made out of chicken-wire will meet your needs.
  • Place your compost bin in a spot that will get both sun and shade. The sun can help heat the pile on colder days, and the shade will help keep your pile from drying out.
  • Create a layer of small twigs at the bottom of your pile to help with aeration and drainage.
  • Be sure to mix in equal parts of “greens” and “browns” in your pile. Too many greens (food scraps) and your pile may start to smell.

 

Food Waste Composting

red apple graphic with Reduce Food Waste written on it The U.S. EPA estimates that one-third of the food we produce and buy in the United States gets tossed into landfills. That totals up to over 133 billion pounds of food waste a year! Wasted food negatively affects our society, economy, and environment. Buying only what you need, properly storing food, and donating unwanted food items are all ways you can help prevent food waste. You can also reduce food waste by composting food scraps in your backyard composting pile or bringing your food waste to a local compost drop-off location.

Benefits of Composting

  • Lowers greenhouse gas emissions (methane) from landfills. Landfilled food waste accounts for 14% of methane emissions in the United States, and is the single largest category of landfilled material.
  • Improves soil health and lessens erosion.
  • Conserves resources, such as energy, land, and water.

 

Reducing Wasted Food at Home

Planning, preparing, and storing food can help your household waste less food. Here are some helpful tips:

guy arranging food in a refrigerator Plan & Organize

  • Plan out your meals for the week and stick to your shopping list, buying only the things needed for those meals.
  • Check your refrigerator and pantry before going to the store; avoid buying food you already have.
  • Keep your refrigerator organized by rotating new items to the back and items that need to be eaten soon to the front and center.
  • Create an “eat me first” box or bowl to consume the most perishable items first. 

Storage & Preparation

  • Keep fruits that give off natural gases as they ripen (bananas, apples, tomatoes) in a different bin than other fruits and vegetables.
  • Preserve fresh foods and leftovers by putting them in the freezer. Bread, meats, sliced fruit, and abundant seasonal produce can all be frozen.
  • Wait to wash berries until you are ready to eat them to prevent them from molding too soon.
  • Prepare foods for quick and easy access by storing them in clear serving-size storage containers.

woman checking off shopping list while in the store Be Thrifty & Save Money

  • Be creative when cooking. Casseroles, soups, and smoothies are great ways to make use of leftovers and fruits and vegetables past their prime.
  • Shop smart! Start by shopping in your own refrigerator and cupboards first.
  • Avoid shopping when you’re hungry, as that can lead to overbuying.
  • Buy locally-grown foods and less than perfect looking fruits and vegetables to save money.
  • Pay attention to expiration dates and learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by” and “best-by” on products.

Local Food Waste Composting Drop-off Locations

Beaten Path Compost has two food waste drop-off locations in Gainesville for the composting of food scraps such as vegetables, fruits, dairy products, cereals, and breads. No meat or bones, please. There is no cost to the public to drop-off food waste at these locations; however, only put in food waste materials that are accepted and only use the carts that are marked "Compost" on the front. 

  • 4th Avenue Food Park - 409 SW 4th Ave. (the compost carts are on the east side of the fence behind the dumpsters)
  • Afternoon restaurant - 231 NW 10th Ave. (the compost carts are located behind the restaurant near the dumpsters)

Local Food Waste Collection Services

Beaten Path Compost also provides residential and commercial food waste collection services for a modest fee. For more information, contact Beaten Path Compost at beatenpathcompost@gmail.com.

Two Farms, One Dream offers residential and commercial compost collection service in the Gainesville area, as well as a bucket exchange program at their booth at Haile’s Saturday’s farmer market.