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American Refuse 

Managing organic wastes at home

Promotional Feature


January 3, 2019 | View PDF

We recently got back from a conference highlighting many facets of the waste industry. There was a [BEGIN ITAL]huge[END ITAL] emphasis this year on organics. As some of you might know, there is a big push from the state to reduce the amount of organics found in our waste streams. Organics make up a large percentage of debris in our landfills. In some counties, it’s the largest percent of waste found in a landfill. When organics/food waste are not disposed of properly, it creates methane gases that are harming our environment and contributing to greenhouse gases.

Cal Recycle has been monitoring these increases and has been enforcing laws to combat these issues. We have seen this problem is more prevalent in the commercial sector. Laws such as AB 1826 have been steadily increasing from regulations of 8 cubic yards in 2016 to 4 cubic yards in 2017 and by 2021 it could reach the requirement of 2 cubic yards of waste generation for mandatory organics.

What is the difference of landfill versus composting or anaerobic digestion? A banana, for example, will omit methane gases if it is left to rot on its own in a landfill. It will take roughly 3 months to decompose on its own. When organics/food waste are sent to a compost facility, the “agitators” can help speed up the decomposing process. The released gases are also in a controlled environment where they can be captured instead of released into the atmosphere.

Another facility that can take in organic waste is called an anaerobic digestion facility, where organic waste is set in bays. The material is put through another type of “agitation” process, which also involves heat. The methane gases are captured and used to fuel vehicles. This process is known as renewable energy.

As you maybe reading this article, you maybe thinking well how do I, as an individual or member of a family, contribute to all this waste? Most of food waste does come from the residential sector. As we listened in at the conference it was noted that studies found:

--40 percent of the food from farm to fork is wasted. (NRDC did the study.)

--The average person wastes 400 pounds of food a year.

-- The average family of four loses about $1,500-$1,800 a year in wasted food.

Some suggestions to help combat food waste were:

Watch your actual intake of food. Do your own grocery audit. What are you eating? What are you buying too much of? And what are you throwing away each week?

During the study, an observation was made that when we are at a grocery store buying our food, we have good intentions of eating healthy, and may pick up an item or two that falls into the “healthy” category. Say we buy some kale or strawberries, or asparagus, because we want to be healthy. However, when we get home we don’t know what to do with it, and forget it in the back of the refrigerator, or only thought of one use for it. So, the inventible happens, and it is sadly thrown away, costing money and creating unnecessary waste.

Now, of course, the moral of the story is not to discourage you to buy healthy food, but maybe find other uses for it. Recipes? There is an app which was mentioned called “Handpick.” So, we tried it! First you type in an ingredient. Let’s pick asparagus. Then push “OK” and up comes quite a few recipes for you to choose from. It’s not solving the world’s food waste problems, but we found it to be a step in the right direction of reuse and eating healthy. There are many tips on the website, on cooking, storing and shopping with a plan.

Happy eating, saving money and helping our environment!


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