If there is one thing I'm coming to learn during this process it's that food should never go in the trash. The Duke University Center for Sustainability and Commerce says that food and yard waste account for 27% of household waste. That means over a quarter of our trash is currently headed to the landfill when there is a better option. Why shouldn't we landfill food waste? Let's find out.
Trashing Food Implies Waste
Trashed Food Goes To The Landfill
What Is Leachate?
It is the liquid from landfills. It is made from liquids present in the trash, rainwater that has percolated through the trash, or liquid made from the breakdown of items in the landfill. Leachate consists of organic matter, inorganic compounds, heavy metals, and other man-altered components, most of which you wouldn't want in the water supply. So the EPA requires linings to prevent leachate from entering the water supply and regulates how it is processed.
What About The Gases?
There are a number of gases that are released from a landfill. They can be released from volatile compounds dumped in landfill, created through chemical reactions from products in the landfill, or created from microorganisms breaking down materials. Most of the gas produced from a landfill is methane and carbon dioxide (both greenhouse gases), but other gases are possible too. The gas can be burned for heat or electricity or simply let into the environment. Landfills are the 3rd largest source of methane in the United States and the EPA is working towards capturing more of the gas produced from landfills to lower methane emissions. Food products in the trash are more readily degraded by microorganisms and thus, contribute to the production of greenhouse gases.
So what should you do with food waste and scraps?
Compost it! There are a number of different ways to compost. There is composting in your yard (I use this bin*!), using worms, indoors with Bokashi*, or maybe your city participates in industrial composting. The goal is to get those nutrients back in the ground and not just producing leachate and gas or taking up room in the landfill.
Where do you put your food?
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