Food waste is a big problem, with around 13 million tonnes of food wasted every year in the UK alone. There is a growing campaign to encourage individuals and families to take steps to cut down on household food waste, but a lot of food is also discarded by supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and food manufacturers.
When it ends up in landfill, organic waste breaks down and emits methane gas directly into the atmosphere – methane is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.
Diverting food waste away from landfill
Thankfully there are many initiatives, both in the UK and around the world, to try and divert the waste away from landfill and find a more effective way of disposing of it.
In the UK over the last two years, an initiative to use food waste – alongside manure from farm animals and grass silage – to produce green gas has become a huge success. It has just been announced that a million homes now use green gas produced at biomethane plants, and it’s estimated that this could grow to as many as 10 million homes over the next 30 years.
In America, the big Las Vegas casinos have begun to tackle their food waste problem, sending food that’s coming up to its sell-by date to community groups and food banks, with the rest being sent to feed pigs or turned into compost. This initiative has diverted thousands of tons of waste from landfill. The casinos are even recycling oyster shells, which are being used to help restore habitats in Chesapeake Bay.
Using waste to support the local economy
One project at a Brazilian manufacturing plant is embracing the circular economy at the same time as diverting food waste from landfill. The plant has set up a system whereby all the waste from its cafeteria and the ashes from its furnace are being turned into compost which is then sent to the local farmers to use in the fields. The company has then made a commitment to buy food produce from those farmers for its cafeteria, a policy which both lessens food waste and supports the local economy.
There are a growing number of eco-friendly ways of dealing with food waste. If your business produces a lot, invest in a leak-proof, odour-proof compactor to store the waste until it can be disposed of safely.