Food waste is a huge problem in industrialized nations where many households and businesses have more food than they really need. Today, in the second hour of 'Think' we'll be speaking to Elizabeth Royte, who writes about better uses for food waste in the November issue of National Geographic.
An estimated one-third of all food produced worldwide is either lost or wasted somewhere between the farm and our dinner plates which costs $162 billion in the U.S. alone.
Wasted food also has a major impact on climate change. Most of it ends up in landfills, releasing methane gas into the atmosphere and contributes to the greenhouse effect. But, there are several ways you can make better use of food waste to combat the changing climate.
The best thing you can do is enjoy your food, reducing the problem at its source. Other ways include feeding hungry people, feeding animals and recycling the waste for industrial uses. All these are included in the food recovery hierarchy created by the Environmental Protection Agency.
You can also use food scraps to grow more organic food by composting. Some U.S. cities have enacted composting programs that give residents a chance to recycle food in two ways. One is in-vessel composting, which involves mixing shredded food waste with garden waste in a container for several weeks. Then the mix is left out for several months until it can be used to grow more food.
The other method is anaerobic digestion or AD which uses microorganisms to break down food scraps, manure, sewer sludge in the absence of oxygen. Royte writes about the advancement of AD technology on her blog, Notes on waste, water, whatever.
Royte is also the author of Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It and Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash.