My garbage bags have gotten lighter and lighter over the past few years. I could attribute this mitigation to the fact that I am throwing away a lot less food. As a kid, the family garbage can needed to be emptied nearly everyday, or else it would begin to reek the smell of rotting food. Now, if I were so inclined to riffle through my own garbage, its contents consist mainly of spent plastic wrappers, and bits of packaging. This makes trips to the curb far less of a workout than it used to be, and provides that sense of self-satisfaction that only a compost-happy, green consumer could attain.
But the issue of food waste is pretty dramatic when you take a look at restaurants in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Loss Project, Americans are inclined to discard more than 25 percent (approximately 25.9 million tons) of all the food produced domestically (some estimates are significantly higher topping off at about 50 percent), and much of this waste comes directly from spoiled, or uneaten, food intended for restaurants. A recent NPR report stated that food waste from restaurants makes up 15 percent of all the food that ends up in landfills, and that food waste makes up the largest percentage of materials that go into landfills and incinerators. And because the food rots so fast, it quickly generates methane and, yes, it contributes to climate change. An estimated 10 percent of food purchased for restaurants and professional kitchens winds up in landfills, which is a little better of a percentage than what is coming out of residential homes, but still unsettling.
There is work being done to institute food waste awareness in restaurants and large culinary institutions, but that is on a case-by-case basis. Some restaurants have initiated a zero-waste policy by integrating aggressive composting into their routine, but they are in the minority. The bottom line is activating a behavioral change, one that would alter habits enough to make wasting food the equivalent to not recycling a bottle or can. But this is easier said than done.
What do you do, in your home or your place of business, to curb food waste? How do you feel we could address the abundance of food waste moving through our system and arriving at landfills each day?