Composting Food Waste: Is it the best solution?

Food waste is a very serious topic, but this funny food waste music video makes it a little easier to spread the message about food waste.

Composting Food Waste Is it the best solution

Is composting food waste the end all solution to our food waste problem? It’s complicated.

Over at our sister site Sustainablog, Jeff McIntire-Strasburg wrote a thoughtful piece about composting food waste. He looks at the big picture and makes some compelling points about our priorities when it comes to wasting food.

Related Reading: Composting Year-Round, 7 Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home

Jeff argues that composting should be our second choice. So, what should be our first? His salient point is that our first step before composting food waste is creating less of it in the first place. It’s a simple concept that’s complex in practice. Check out his whole article below!

Composting at Schools: Does it Really Address the Issue of Food Waste?

by Jeff McIntire Strasburg, Sustainablog

I’m a die-hard composter myself – just ask my wife what happens when she throws scraps in the garbage – and, as long-time readers know, I’m a fan of the concept at both small and large scales. While I realize some will argue for some form of biogas production as a preferable alternative, I know that such options just aren’t available everywhere – and, in many of those cases, the leftover material still sits in a landfill. So, you’d expect that when I come across an article like this one from today’s New York Times, I’d probably be cheering… right?

No… not this time.

See, as much as I love composting food waste, and think its a very viable alternative for the food waste produced when preparing food for eating, I don’t necessarily like it as a solution for the waste of otherwise edible food. Yes, I definitely think composting is preferable to sending it to a landfill… but that doesn’t make it the solution to the actual problem at hand. Truthfully, I grimaced pretty hard at the thought of those kids pitching perfectly good bananas in this article’s first two paragraphs. We’re still wasting food… composting it is a second-best alternative.

So, if Composting Food Waste Isn’t the Answer, What Is?

“So, c’mon, smart guy: how do you make kids eat everything they’re served?” That’s a perfectly viable response here, and I don’t have a perfectly viable answer – kids are kids, and often don’t like things. I also know that logistics are an issue in school cafeterias: there are lots of kids to feed, so uniform meals not only insure that children are receiving nutritionally-balanced meals (well, at least, we hope), but that all kids are getting those meals in a timely fashion.  I’d argue for more of a buffet-style set-up, where kids can choose what they’d like, but I’m guessing that would not only wreck the lunchroom logistics, but also create… wait for it… lots of food waste: many kids will want the same things.

I’d love to hear about success stories on this front: how has your child’s school addressed the issue of food waste (which isn’t just an environmental issue – that’s also money going to the landfill!). Maybe composting food waste is the only really viable solution… but, boy, I just hate seeing all of that food go uneaten…

Image Credit: Compost photo via Shutterstock

  1. Rod Averbuch

    Converting food to fertilizer should be our last resort considering the very low return on energy, material, and water that were invested in the food.
    There is no single cure, or silver bullet for food waste reduction therefore, we should address the food waste problem in every link in our food supply chain. For example, the excess inventory of fresh perishables close to their expiration on supermarket shelves, combined with the consumer “Last In First Out” shopping behavior, might be the weakest link of the fresh food supply chain.
    The new open GS1 DataBar standard enables applications that encourage efficient
    consumer shopping by offering him automatic and dynamic purchasing incentives
    for fresh perishables approaching their expiration dates before they end up in a landfill.
    The “End Grocery Waste” App, which is based on the open GS1 DataBar standard, encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that maximizes grocery retailer revenue, makes fresh food affordable for all families and effectively reduces the global carbon footprint. You can look this application up at EndGroceryWaste.com

    Chicago, IL

  2. Amy Lynn Schryer-Feek

    As for that last bit about school food waste being an issue, perhaps more packed lunches from home is the answer. I know that for some busy moms it’s hard to pack their kids lunches sometimes, but it’s worth it in the end. My own girls have always had homemade lunches, and my oldest (heading to college) is intending to do the same for herself because that’s what she’s used to. Yes, it was a challenge, but that way I knew that they’d get food they’d eat and none would be wasted, and I was able to control just what food they ended up getting. Is it a bit of a trial most of the time? Absolutely, most of the time. I did them at night, before heading to bed and kept them in the fridge. Lots of veggies and such, no crap food that they often get at the schools, to make it fun I started doing bento box style lunches, and even as teenagers they thanked me for it.

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