Recycling food waste is an important step in green livingGuest post by Christina Appleworth

Food waste recycling is an essential part of day-to-day sustainability efforts. Still not as widespread as recycling of  paper, plastic and glass, recycling food scrapes and waste is a major benefit to the environment, while also generating important fuels and fertilizers. With more and more city councils, municipalities, and other organizations scaling-up food waste recycling plans, it is necessary to consider the environmental damage food waste causes, and how easy it is to recycle and do your part to create a greener world.

Food waste damage

In terms of how a build-up of food waste affects the environment, refuse sacks dumped into landfills gradually release methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and a significant contributor to global warming.

With and estimated 8.3 million tones of food thrown away per year in the UK alone, this gradual build up of gas is more of a problem than the space used to dump materials. At the same time, dumping unwanted food into the bin wastes the huge amounts of water used to grow and treat food. The United Kingdom also faces sanctions against building up large amounts of waste and the European Union recently introduced a maximum quantity for landfills.

Recycling Options

Having a positive approach to food waste recycling can therefore have a major impact on the environment. Most municipalities will offer weekly or biweekly collections, and bins that can take anything from leftovers to tea bags, pet food, and grounds. Lockable lids similarly restrict animals from breaking into the bins.

While at first it can feel like a hassle to separate and scrape out food from containers, ultimately it’s just a means of putting the majority of the food intended for a main bin into another. Moreover, you can also make the most of your food by ensuring that you don’t overstock and end up throwing away expired materials, while also checking dates on freezer items and recycling leftovers into other meals. Simple waste is no excuse, especially with large orders of meat and expensive goods.

Recycling Solutions

Many recycling and waste management services can convert food waste into useful substances without damaging the environment. One approach taken is to use an anaerobic digestion process to break down food, depackaging, compacting and pasteurizing it into biogas and biofertilizer. In this way, the energy properties of methane can be adapted without releasing more toxic materials into the atmosphere. At the same time, you can develop your own composting system, given either a large enough garden or space to install a bin.

Composting takes a long time to work, but provides a cheap and easy way to dispose off cuttings and pieces of wood, producing rich natural soils for the garden. Combined with careful checking of local council policies on how much food waste can be recycled and when, a compost heap is a useful way to get on top of your personal recycling.

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Image credit: SkipHire Magazine

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