Food waste has been a problem for a long time and the problem is just getting bigger all the time. A lot of food waste ends up in landfills and this is a big environmental problem. The main problem is the creation of methane, a greenhouse gas, when food waste decomposes.
The huge amount of food waste ending up in landfills creates a number of problems. One problem is that more landfills are needed in order to cope with the volume of garbage generated by the growing population. Food waste is not the only culprit but it is one of the biggest contributors. Food waste also attracts vermin and flies, helping them to grow their numbers.
But the biggest environmental problem with food waste in landfills is the creation of methane. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), methane is more than 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. According to a recent study, landfills are estimated to produce 34% of all methane gas in the US.
Recycling has often been one way of reducing the amount of waste going to landfills. Unfortunately, very little food waste is recycled. Food waste has become the largest category of waste going to landfills. About 20% of the waste ending up in landfills is food waste. In the US, according to official government figures, of 34 million tons of food waste, only 3% were recycled.
Food waste is a global problem, around 1.3 billion tonnes per year of food is lost or wasted. In EU, the annual food waste has been estimated at approximately 179 kg per capita, and the number is increasing. If nothing is done, food wastage will grow 40% by 2020, according to a study published by the European Commission.
The natural solution for getting rid of food waste is composting. It is environmentally friendly and the end product, compost, is one of the best ways to enrich soil. Several cities have opened large scale composting plants. But composting is not popular everywhere, while some local authorities subsidize composting bin systems others have banned home composting. Note also that not all kinds of food should be put into composts. Dairy products, fats, meat and fish should never be put into a compost. Composting can not alone solve the problem but it can certainly be part of the solution.
Garbage disposers is one way of limiting the amount of food waste being dumped into landfills. The idea behind the garbage disposer is simple, by shredding the food waste into small particles, it can be discarded through the sewer system. Modern waste water treatment plants can then convert the shredded food waste into biogas. But not everyone thinks that garbage disposals are good for the environment. According to some, garbage disposers create more environmental issues than they solve. Here you can read more about the topic: are garbage disposers environmentally friendly
Many believe that a combination of solutions needs to implemented in order to reduce the amount of food waste. For example, the amount of food produced and purchased should be reduced. Overproduction of food cost a lot of energy which could be used much more productive. More food needs to be recycled rather than being dumped into landfills.