Food waste: from part of the problem, to part of the solution

composting, food waste, solution

We are currently in the middle of Compost Week 2021. Celebrating the benefits of composting is extremely important to our society, and we should all consider becoming “rotters”. Let’s find out why.

A common mistake is to think of composting as the exclusive dominion of farmers and gardeners, I assure you that’s not the case, we can all play our part. While a small proportion of people have an allotment or a veg patch in the garden, we are not really inclined to grow our own greeneries yet. But how important is composting?

WRAP estimated annual food waste from UK households, hospitality & food service (HaFS), food manufacture, retail and wholesale sectors in 2018 at around 9.5 million tonnes, 70% of which was intended to be consumed by us  (30% being the ‘inedible parts such as the outer layers of cauliflower, animals waste etc) 

This had a value of over £19 billion a year and equates to more than 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Over 85% (by weight) of this wasted food arises in households and food manufacture, although waste arising in one part of the supply chain is certainly influenced by other parts of the chain.

19% of the food scraps and lawn clippings, ideal compost fodder, end up in landfills and decompose without access to oxygen. This causes the release of methane gas, which is many times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The good news is that we can all do our part to avoid food waste as much as possible while learning how to make composting happen at home.

What is composting?

We can describe composting as the process of giving life back to your soil using organic materials. In the wild, composting takes place naturally: trees shed their leaves, shrubs wither away, seeds deteriorate, and all these materials will decompose spontaneously, becoming part of the soil they came from and delivering nutrients back into the ground. Recreating this process in an urban setting is possible, by using food and garden waste such as leaves and lawn cuttings. With the right ingredients and the right environment, your compost system will evolve into a finished product that is extremely valuable.

Here are a few reasons why compost is way more valuable than average soil:

  1. Drought: acting as a natural sponge, compost is perfect for retaining moisture that plants will use when needed. This is extremely helpful to reduce the need to water and use commercial fertilizer.
  2. Climate change: good compost removes carbon from the air to store it in the ground. This carbon will eventually become part of the plants thriving on that soil. Depleted soil, containing less organic material, can’t claim this property vital to fight global warming.
  3. Landfills: as previously mentioned, we need to be more self-conscious of the food waste amount that ends up in landfills. Composting would eliminate the presence of organic materials in landfills, decreasing the overall methane gas emissions.
  4. Healthy food: Needless to say, good homemade compost without synthetic fertilizers will produce amazing vegetables. Healthy soil = healthy food. Healthy food = healthy people.  you know my motto dont you!

How to do it yourself

The two main ingredients of compost are “green” materials and “brown” materials. Combined with water and oxygen, the elements will break down and generate compost.

Whatever method you’ll decide to use, is important to maintain a good balance for the beneficial microbes to thrive. Luckily, any compost pile can be recovered if something doesn’t go as planned, so it can be treated like a fun experiment.There are plenty of compost receptacles that will make it easier than ever to compost right at home. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could also try methods suitable for back garden use such as the 3 bin method or vermicomposting. If you have trouble with space, you can opt for Bokashi composting or other indoor composting methods.

What is the best way to start? First, you’ll need to evaluate how much space you have and how much brown and green material you produce. Then all you’ll have to do is pick your method and purchase a compost bin (you could also make your own or check if your council provides them). Establish the right environment and appetite for your system and begin to add your inputs throughout the week. All organic material will eventually break down with or without you, but giving a little attention to your compost system can go a long way to keep things from getting smelly and to ensure that you have a product you can use in your (or your neighbor’s, or your community’s) garden at the end.

No more excuses! Let’s get our hands dirty and reduce emissions.

 

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