Compost: Cutting Down On Food Waste

One-hundred sixty-one billion dollars. One-hundred thirty-three billion pounds. Those are the stats for food waste in America in the year 2010. Babies born in that year are now upon the double digit ages. Roughly 31% of food purchased on the consumer level goes to waste.

We haven’t even taken into account the staggering number of people who go hungry every day. Food waste is an issue, but it’s a very treatable issue. The treatment isn’t even all that difficult. It already occurs in nature, you’re just providing the right, shall we say, climate to speed up the process and produce a very useful byproduct in the process. It’s all known as…


Over time organic material bio-degrades – or breaks down – back into the earth and fertilizes the soil. The fertilizer is called compost. The act of breaking down food scraps with other organic materials to create that fertilizer is called compost. If it sound circular and confusing, it actually is. Certain food scraps (fruits/veggies skins) combine with shredded newspaper, grass clippings, or other such materials. When stored and maintained in proper conditions, the process of these materials breaking down into compost is sped up. Without any tending, compost can take up to a year. With the right tools, that time is reduced to mere months.

What Can Compost?

As were previously mentioned, the skins and scraps of fruits and vegetables are top of the list. Other kitchen items include egg shells, coffee grounds, coffee filters, tea (bagged and loose leafed), stale breads. But perhaps the most wonderful item in the kitchen that can be compost is that greasy pizza box. These can’t be recycled because there’s no way to decontaminate it (get the grease off). But torn into small pieces it can become compost. The only exception is if the box has any sort of wax coating (frozen pizza boxes).

Outside the kitchen, in the garden, dried leaves and small twigs are a few ever present, pesky messes that can be added to a compost bin. This also helps clean up the air if you sweep them up with a broom/rake and dustpan instead of having the gardener blow them about with the noisy, noxious, gas-operated, most pointless machine ever made: the leaf blower. Like, where’s the ban of that wretched blight on gardening tools? Aside from leaves and twigs, grass clippings and fine wood chips or bark can go in a compost bin as well.

Materials such as cardboard and bark can help dry out a compost that’s gotten too wet. Newspapers are relatively safe for compost, but anything else from the paper world is better off in the recycling bin due to heavier processing.

The Future Of Compost

There already exists on the market a system that lives in a person’s backyard, in a warm, well-lit area and accepts all kinds of food waste (including meats and dairy) and converts it into gas while also producing a fertilizer for gardens and yards. This same system can then funnel that gas back into the kitchen and provide hours of gas for cooking or heating water. If this technology exists on a private home, commercial level then what comes next? It truly begs asking how much can be saved and repurposed in the best of ways no matter a person’s living situation. Rooftop gardens are a popular trend in urban areas that encourage all sorts of benefits to the environment including conserving energy and reducing stormwater runoff. Imagine fertilizing that garden with the compost of inhabitants of the building. Whether it’s residential housing or a business with offices and break rooms, there will be food waste of some sort. Now it can be repurposed and kept out of the landfills.