Ever discover a long-expired package of chicken that got pushed to the back of your refrigerator? Or how about some vegetables you put in the crisper and then forgot you even purchased? We’ve all done it. When it’s a couple bananas here and some leftover pizza there, it may not seem like your family tosses very much food. But when you start to add it up, and when you add all the U.S. households together, it’s easy to see that food waste is a problem.
Feeding America estimates about 70 billion pounds of food waste in America each year. And between 25 and 40 percent of the food that is grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be eaten. There are plenty of hungry adults and children in the country who would be happy to fill their plates with that food.
More food waste fills our landfills than any other material. It may not seem like as big a problem as plastics or other garbage, but when food is disposed in a landfill, it rots and becomes a significant source of methane. That methane is a serious greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, according to Feeding America.
How can one household make a difference?
1. Plan your meals for the week before you shop.Take into consideration plans to eat out for lunch and dinner, supplies for the kids’ lunchboxes, and whether you’ll have any guests at mealtime.
2. Take inventory of your pantry and refrigerator before you shop so you don’t buy something you already have in stock.
3. Only buy the amount you’ll need. You might be tempted by a sale or to buy in bulk, but if you can’t consume all the food before it goes bad, you wasted the food and money.
4. Always check the expiration dates. You don’t want to get home and discover the gallon of milk you just bought expires in one day.5. Make Friday “leftovers night” and eat up all the leftover meals from the week. Plus, no one has to cook.
6. When dining out, order a smaller portion size, share a plate or choose appetizers to cut down on food waste.
Charleston County residents can also ask if restaurants they frequent participate in the food composting program with Charleston County Environmental Management. The county is working to turn area food waste into usable compost instead of garbage that goes into the landfills.
The table-to-farm initiative transforms food scraps generated from local restaurants, cafeterias and cafés into compost that goes right back to local farmers who then grow the crops used in Charleston area restaurants. Local landscaping companies and individual consumers also can purchase the compost created at the county’s compost facility.
More than 50 local businesses and organizations are composting their food scraps as part of the table-to-farm program. With the vast number of restaurants in Charleston, that leaves a lot of businesses untapped.
Christina Moskos, recycling coordinator for Charleston County Environmental Management, says that’s where the public can help. When consumers visit their favorite restaurant or coffee shop, ask if the business participates in a food recycling program. The most people ask, the more a business might consider the program.
Consumers also can support the program by purchasing the compost generated by the program. It is available at Bees Ferry Compost Facility at 1344 Bees Ferry Road in West Ashley and at the Charleston County Recycling Center at 13 Romney St. Compost costs $8 per yard, $3 per bag or 25 cents per 5-gallon bucket.
To learn more about Charleston County’s environmental management efforts, visit recycle.charlestoncounty.org.