Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Food waste - a huge polluter. This has to change!

Food waste needs to be centre stage on our agenda for change.

Food waste is one of the biggest pollution issues on the planet. It produces more emissions that steel and iron ore industries combined. At least one third of all food grown in the world is wasted. In my part of the world (Australia), around half of our bins are filled with food waste.

If we spend time to think about how our food is grown, how it reaches us, how it is transported, cooled, processed, cooked, packaged, served and stored we begin to realise the enormity of the problem with wasting it.  Embodied in food is enormous water use and water contamination, soil loss, fossil fuel use, chemical use, deforestation, plastics and a huge amount of human labour.

Did you know that food waste is the number one material sent to landfill - more than plastic and paper? In landfill it doesn't biodegrade in that oxygen-starved environment. It is not enriching the soil like in a compost system. Instead, as it rots, it releases methane - a greenhouse gas with 25 times the impact of carbon dioxide. It also contributes to the leachate that contaminates groundwater. Meanwhile our food system relies heavily on chemical fertilisers to feed plants.

The first thing to do is acknowledge that it is a significant problem, then work together to actively find solutions in our homes, our communities, cafes and restaurants, our offices, our schools, our hospital - wherever we gather and eat. Our actions inform system change.

Here is my recent Simple Life segment from Evening show on ABC Radio Queensland with Trevor Jackson. I discuss simple ways that even a novice composter, with a small space, can make a difference. Food Waste Recycling:

Here are just a few of the ways we can personally reduce food waste.

1. Eat more of your our homegrown produce
We overlook so much food in our garden because we don't realise it is edible, for example:
  • pumpkin leaves and shoots, flowers, plus seeds and skin too. 
  • sweet potato leaves and shoots
  • beetroot leaves
  • carrot leaves
  • cauliflower leaves
  • broccoli leaves
  • snow pea leaves
  • pigeon peas (fresh and dried) and growing shoots
  • weeds such as chickweed, purslane, dandelion ...
There is a huge range of plants we can eat. I'll keep talking about these in my blog, and please do share how you stretch your plant foods further.

Also read: More Food: Less Waste and listen to my ABC Segment on this topic:

2. Reduce wastage
We need to get serious about not buying and wasting food, and change our perceptions - e.g. too much food on our tables is offensive, rather than as a symbol of affluence and wealth. So for less waste:
  • buy just what you need
  • cook just what you need
  • eat everything on your plate (judge portion size well)
  • plan your meals 
  • create a shopping list
  • avoid buying food when you're hungry
  • store food supplies well
  • store leftovers well
  • freeze surplus for meals during the week
  • share your meals with others to distribute surplus
3. Reuse Leftovers
Re-fashion your food into imaginative new dishes. It's a frugal thing to do, something that many of our grandparents did because they needed to. We need to reuse leftovers too, perhaps not because we can't afford more food, but because of the reasons explained above.

A simple example of using leftover pumpkin soup, it can be reheated, it can become a tasty pasta sauce base, a perfect ingredient for a curry, mixed into scones and so much more.

There is no really limit except in our imagination.

4. Recycle Food Waste 
Turn food waste into food for the soil. The best way to compost food scraps is in closed bin systems to avoid vermin and insects accessing rotting food. For this reason I use these systems for food scraps:
  • compost bins and tumblers (bays I use for garden waste, and chicken pen waste)
  • worm farms and worm towers (worms are superb recylcers)
  • bokashi (I use the bokashi mix to sprinkle into my food scrap caddy to stop it smelling - I then add this to both the worm farm and the compost bins)
  • chickens - our chooks get a lot of our scraps, as well as veggie garden scraps which they turn into protein (eggs) and fertiliser (manure for the compost bays)

Here are some of my Youtube Clips about recycling food scraps:

Worm towers: 

Compost Bin:

Bokashi: coming soon

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  1. Hi, Morag. We started composting with two Bokashi Bins out on our back verandah, then moved on to two tumblers and a worm farm. Worm farms are fantastic and we've never had any problems with ours. This takes care of our fruit and vegie scraps. None of our scraps go to landfill now so we've really reduced what is in our bin each week. With meat scraps, we have our dog who very happily takes care of these! While we don't drink coffee, our local cafe sells lots of it and I approached them recently and they were really happy to save their coffee grounds for me. I collect these weekly and add them to my compost, sprinkle them in our worm farm and onto the soil. I even noticed little bags of coffee grounds at a local library recently (with a little cafe and community garden attached) that people can take if they wish. I learnt about coffee grounds at the Intro to Permaculture course I did with you at Northey St a while ago. Sometimes, I think people don't know what to do with some waste products...the people at the cafe were amazed that they could be used for the garden! Meg:)

  2. Good morning Morag, I find food waste distressing and do all I can to stop any food material from being put into the bin. I have a working worm farm and I have just acquired a compost bin ($5.00 on Gumtree, bargain) and I am setting it up this weekend. I don't have a lot of open ground, only one very small veggie garden, I am removing a few plants to slot the compost bin in, I think I will channel my focus into making magnificent compost rather than having a go at growing any more veggies. I don't have a lot of luck growing veggies they always seem to get attacked by pests and disease. I know deep down it is the poor quality of my soil and also the position of the liitle garden bed behind the influx of pests and disease in my garden. I always keep dreaming of what my next garden will be like and I can't wait. Have a wonderful weekend.

  3. Good morning Morag, I find food waste distressing and do all I can to stop any food material from being put into the bin. I have a working worm farm and I have just acquired a compost bin ($5.00 on Gumtree, bargain) and I am setting it up this weekend.