Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting

Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting

What can and What can't be Composted Reading Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting 4 minutes Next 10 Tips to Reduce Kitchen Waste at Home

Reducing the Impact of Wasted Food by Feeding the Soil and Composting

On this page:

  • What is Compost
  • Benefits of Compost
  • Success Stories

Composting is the fifth tier of EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy. Even when all actions have been taken to use your wasted food, certain inedible parts will still remain and can be turned into compost to feed and nourish the soil. Like yard waste, food waste scraps can also be composted. Composting these wastes creates a product that can be used to help improve soils, grow the next generation of crops, and improve water quality. 2.6 million tons of food (4.1 percent of wasted food) was composted. In 2018, Americans recovered over 69 million tons of MSW through recycling, and almost 25 million tons through composting. This is 1.16 pounds per person per day for recycling and 0.42 pounds per person per day for composting. Food composting curbside collection programs served 6.1 million households in 2017, the most recent year for which information is available. 

What is Compost?

Gardeners and farmers add compost to soil to improve its physical properties. They may even use compost instead of soil to grow plants. Mature compost is a stable material with a content called humus that is dark brown or black and has a soil-like, earthy smell.

Compost is created by:

  • Combining organic wastes, such as wasted food, yard trimmings, and manures, in the right ratios into piles, rows, or vessels.
  • Adding bulking agents such as wood chips, as necessary to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials; and
  • Allowing the finished material to fully stabilize and mature through a curing process.

Mature compost is created using high temperatures to destroy pathogens and weed seeds that natural decomposition does not destroy. Also there are many type of compost.

Benefits of Composting

There are a number of benefits to compost that not everyone is aware of. Some examples are listed below:

  • Organic waste in landfills generates, methane, a potent greenhouse gas. By composting wasted food and other organics, methane emissions are significantly reduced.
  • Compost reduces and in some cases eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Compost promotes higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • Compost can help aid reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by improving contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
  • Compost can be used to remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste in a cost effective manner.
  • Compost can provide cost savings over conventional soil, water and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.
  • Compost enhances water retention in soils.
  • Compost provides carbon sequestration.

Success Stories

Disclaimer of Endorsement: Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.
  • New Seasons Markets

    New Seasons Markets operates 12 stores in the Pacific Northwest and strives to support the local economy and sustainable agriculture. Since 2006, New Seasons Market has increased diversion of organic materials, including food waste to compost by 109 percent. Since 2011, they have diverted more than 2,410 tons of food from landfills and saved more than $25,000 in waste expenses. 

    Petco Park

    Petco Park, home to the San Diego Padres, implemented a food composting program in 2005 helping the venue to save money on its trash disposal bills. In 2011, Petco Park diverted 164 tons from landfill, saving $75,000 since 2005.

    Middlebury College

    Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont initiated a food waste composting program in 1993. Middlebury College used to haul the food scraps offsite, but now have a site on campus where they compost 90 percent of the food waste generated or 370 tons in 2011. In 2011, Middlebury saved over $100,000 in landfill fees by recycling and composting. 

 

You may also want to know
Beginner's Guide to Composting
Types of Composting
What Is Living Soil & How to Easily Make Some at Home

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