Food waste recycling: what to do with the food you can't eat
Not all food can be eaten unfortunately: there will always be peelings, bones, egg shells etc. So what's the best thing to do?
The best thing we can do is make the most of the food and drink we buy rather than throwing it away - it's best financially and environmentally. Just think about all the energy, water and packaging used in food production, transportation and storage. This all goes to waste when we throw away perfectly good food and here's why. But what to do if you do have food that can't be eaten or stored for later?
Composting at home is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. Everything from vegetable and fruit peelings to teabags, toilet roll tubes, cereal boxes and eggshells can be composted. Take care not to compost cooked food, meat or fish though. Did you know, composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, or your washing machine produces in three months?
We're often asked "Why do I need to not waste my food/compost/recycle when my waste will break down in landfill anyway?" Good question! When waste is sent to landfill, air cannot get to the organic waste. Therefore as the waste breaks down it creates a harmful greenhouse gas, methane, which damages the Earth's atmosphere.
However, when this same waste is composted above ground at home, oxygen helps the waste to decompose aerobically which means hardly any methane is produced, which is good news for the planet. And what's more, after nine to twelve months, you get a free fertiliser for your garden and plant pots to keep them looking beautiful.
If you don't have a garden or don't want to compost then find out if your local Council offers a food waste recycling service. These collections will allow you to recycle your cooked and raw food scraps which will then go off to be commercially composted at a local facility. There are two ways is can be recycled.
- The first, In-vessel composting, involves mixing food waste with garden waste, shredding it and composting it in a tunnel or container for around two to four weeks. Temperatures of up to 70 degrees C speed up the process and kill any harmful microbes. It is then left for a further 1-3 months with regular turning and checks to ensure quality, before going on to be used as soil conditioner.
- The second method, Anaerobic Digestion, uses micro-organisms called 'methanogens' to break down food waste, animal manures and energy crops in the absence of oxygen, inside an enclosed tank. As it breaks down, it gives off 'bio-gas' that is collected and used to generate electricity, heat or transport fuels. It also creates biofertiliser, which can be used in farming and land regeneration.
Want more information to help you make the most of your food?